What is an Antique

What is an Antique?

According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language:

An object having special value because of its age, especially a domestic item or piece of furniture or handicraft esteemed for its artistry, beauty, or period of origin.

Sir Frances Bacon believed that

“Antiques are the remnants of History that have escaped the Shipwreck of Time”

However the Customs and Excise Branch of every government is interested in the definition of an “Antique” because they collect taxes on new items that compete with the domestic market. Therefore in Canada and the States an “Antique” is defined as something that was made over 100 years ago. In Great Britain the old definition of Made before 1830 still holds.

In Canada we talk about Antique Cars, Antique Radios Antique Washing Machines etc, none of which meets the Customs definition.

What do we mean when we talk about “Antiques?”

Well it seems that many people mean “before their parents were born”

Does it matter? No, not really as long as everyone understands what the other person means.

Collecting Antiques is all about COLLECTING

If you collect Pre-Confederation Canadian Furniture the anything made after 1867 is of little interest to you.

If you collect Depression Glass (1930-1940) then Pressed Glass of the late 1800’s is boring.

That is why most Antique Shops advertise “Antiques & Collectibles”

Claudia and I are constantly asked “How do I know it’s worth anything?”, “How do I learn?”

There are 4 basic rules:


It doesn’t matter what you would like to collect, whether it is mid-Victorian snuff boxes,  Phonograph records of the early 20’s, Tobacco tins of the 1930’s or Barbed wire of the early 1900’s, someone has written an article or a book on the subject.

Trade magazines for the Collectors always contain excellent articles. Publications such as Antiques & Collectibles Showcase, Wayback Times and The Upper Canadian offer information on a variety of Collectibles each month.

The internet is full of fascinating information. Regardless of your interest, somewhere out there someone has a web page devoted to the subject.


Visit as many Antique Shows, Auctions, Stores and Museums as you can. Look at examples of your area of interest. Try and find the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Identify the differences. If you don’t understand what you are looking for, you won’t know when you find it.


Ask questions of the dealers. Why is one piece more expensive than another? As an example we came across two Roseville Vases. One was priced at $150 and the other was $65. I asked the dealer what was the difference. He showed me a small chip that had been coloured the same as the pottery. He said it was still a nice example of Roseville and was collectible but the value was less than half the perfect one.

What identifies a good piece?  Listen to their answers. They will all try and help you and teach you because an educated customer is a good customer. They will not always be right. No dealer is an expert on everything. Don’t argue, just listen. There are many opinions about certain collectibles.


Old items feel different. I’ve never met anyone who can describe the difference but all collectors agree that there is something. The best that can be said is that old things have a warmth to them that new items do not.