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Defining antiques, collectibles, memorabilia and antiquities is an article that explores the meaning of these often confused definitions. Generally defining antiques & collectibles can be confusing even to the experts and leads to frustration among collectors, dealers and the general public. Outasite!! Antiques is part of NOVA-Antiques, the Mid-Atlantic website for all things antique & collectible.
Generally among experts, something is considered antique when it is 100 years old or older. An antique item is normally well designed and crafted and some may even consider it a piece of art because of its function and design. In addition, an antique is normally a rare item that not many other people own because time has passed it by. Although many antiques appreciate in value and purchased and sold as investments, other antiques hold no monetary value except to the person who owns it, the value being more nostalgic or personal. That is the difference between antique and memorabilia, which should not be confused with collectibles.
Like antiques, many collectibles appreciate in value depending on their rarity, design or function, for example stamps and coins have steadily appreciated in price. However, Ty, which flooded the market with Beenie Babies has seen the market collapse. Some collectibles, whether widely collected or not, have more of a nostalgic feel to them and those are the items that we classify as memorabilia.
We describe memorabilia more as a souvenir of our past, a keepsake that belonged to us or someone else or a memento from a time past. A lot of our past is buried in these old but not yet maybe antique items and can bring back nostalgic memories about a certain time in our life or in the life of others. Memorabilia is sometimes widely collected and as such considered a collectible, for example, World’s Fair items are both nostalgic and collectible to a great many people as are vintage posters, advertisement items and beer cans. Other memorabilia, although important to us personally, has may have little or no monetary value on the open market, for example my mother’s dime store angel collection.
Some memorabilia and collectibles have such a large following that the collectors of these items have coined or created names for either themselves or the collectibles themselves. Examples of these are numismatic, which is the study and or collection of coins and currency, and the people that collect such items are called numismatists. Some of these names have been around since people began collecting in ancient times, others are more recent and have to do with more recent memorabilia and collectible items, such as Pyrobilia which is associated with collecting fireworks or things associated with fireworks.
Based on the definition above, some decorative arts and other things although collectible, are not yet antiques because they have not reached the ripe old age of 100. For example mid-century modern furniture, which was made between 1935 and 1965, by premier designers such as Eames, Heywood-Wakefield and Frank Lloyd Wright have become very sought after by antique collectors in recent years because of their design, function and their artistic value. By definition, a collectible is something that was either manufactured for the purpose of collecting, such as things made by the Franklin Mint, or things that were made for a specific purpose, such ascoins, stamps, glass and books, that people have started collecting and have a following.
Lastly, we should not confuse the words antique and antiquities. Although antiquities may be antiques by definition, antiquities are normally objects that are archeologically relevant and normally thousands of years old. Antiquities are normally things that were used by past civilizations or peoples and later discovered by other people, usually an archeologist digging somewhere. Antiquities can include prehistoric and ancient tools, pottery items, coins, jewelry or even artwork. Although many antiquities have a monetary value to collectors, most of these findings end up in museums around the world, used to educate our children about the world’s past.