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Antique vs Vintage: Shopping at Estate Sales

Estate Sale Lingo 101

Antique, vintage, retro, repro, collectible… sometimes it seems like the estate sale world has a language all its own. While you may hear some of these words used in the same way, they actually have very distinct meanings. When it comes to hitting the estate sales and antique stores in town, you may feel like you can walk the walk, but can you talk the talk? Learning the lingo can help you shop confidently, so we here at Blue Moon Estate Sales are happy to walk you through the basics!

As an added bonus, knowing the proper terminology can also help you search for exactly what you want on eBay and other sites!

Finding Authentic Items at Estate Sales

An estate, or tag, sale is perfect for finding hidden treasures of authentic antiques or collectibles for a reasonable price. In fact, many home decorating and craft companies will recommend items to buy, proving how valuable estate sales are for finding the perfect authentic items for your home. Whether it's a work of art like an oil painting, fine china, or a mid-century piece of furniture, the types of items included by sellers at an estate sale can have hidden value.

It's important to understand the terminology at an estate sale on the day in order to find out if your new jacket is vintage clothing or a retro item. These words may sound the same, but they indicate different time periods that vastly change the value of the items.

Age Isn't Just a Number

When shopping for antiques, an item’s value is based on many factors, and age is definitely one of those factors. Terms like “vintage” and “antique” do more than just make old stuff sound fancy. When used correctly, words like these can quickly and easily communicate an item’s history and context. Understanding this kind of terminology means that you can speak confidently about the items that interest you, and who doesn’t want to do that?

collection of vintage LP records with pair of retro headphones


Ready to Sound like a Pro?

Let's run down the most common phrases you'll run into in the estate sale business:

  • Antique: having an age of 100 years old or older
  • Collectible: an item suitable for being collected
  • Estate: previously owned; typically used in reference to jewelry
  • Period: of a specific time, often in a style characteristic of that era
  • Repro: an item or work made to imitate or closely resemble an existing item typically of higher value or significance
  • Retro: imitative of a style of the recent past
  • Vintage: having an age of 20 to 99 years old

Now that you’ve got the lingo down, you know that those over-the-ear headphones you bought at the mall are retro and that the 1970s Pioneer receiver you plug into is vintage. The 1880s Eastlake style chest of drawers that holds your turntable is both period and antique, and 1968 pressing of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks that you like to listen to is both vintage and collectible. The Vincent Van Gogh museum print hanging on the wall nearby is a repro.

An estate sale is an excellent place to hunt for antique furniture, art prints, musical instruments, clothing, and other vintage items and collectibles. So, don't be shy next time you’re shopping at an estate sale. You’ve got the tools to talk shop with the best of them. Flex those language skills!

Find an Estate Sale Near You

Blue Moon Estates is a nationwide estate sale company. On our website, you'll find a database listing all our upcoming estate sales. Check out what sales are close to you and put your new lingo to the test!