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retrolampAny reader of any significant amount of auction advertising will note that auctioneers use certain words to denote age.

“Antique chest of drawers,” “Vintage jewelry,” and “Retro clothing and costumes” all suggest a certain time frame or age of personal property.

Here we propose 21 of the most common words used by auctioneers to denote age.

    Ancient

        Very old. Likely over 500 years old or older.

    Antique

        Made or manufactured 100 years ago or older, with exceptions including automobiles manufactured 25 years or older, and guns made prior to 1898.

    Archaic

        Greek 7th – 5th b.c. fine arts and/or rare in present day usage.

    Circa

        Around or about a certain time (usually denoted.)

    Classic

        Greek and Roman antiquity items, and/or something of supreme quality.

    Classical

        Greek and Roman antiquity items.

    Collectible

        No particular age but of interest to a collector, investor and/or hobbyist.

    Like new

        Not new, but in original condition and function.

    Mid Century

        Made or manufactured roughly between 1933 to 1965.

    Modern

        Contemporary; of current or recent times.

    New

        Recent manufacture or origin, and recently brought out to market.

    Old

        Generally made or manufactured 50 years ago or older.

    Out-of-date

        Out of style; not modern.

    Period

        Of a certain period of time or particular era (usually denoted.)

    Prehistoric

        From a time prior to recorded history.

    Primitive

        Obsolete and a first of kind; primal.

    Rare

        No particular age but unusual or uncommon; unusually great.

    Retro

        Made in a likeness of a prior time.

    State-of-the-art

        New and the highest form of the current technology.

    Used

        Not new; previously owned; worn, showing wear.

    Vintage

        Of a high quality and/or no longer manufactured.

It’s important for the public to recognize that not all auctioneers use these same criteria to indicate age. One auctioneer might say a 75-year-old statuary is, “antique,” while another might not. Further clarification as to the exact age (or period) can help the public assess some items.

Lastly we note that some of these adjectives might be considered, “sales talk,” while others can be considered factual. We discussed how puffing is different than misrepresentation here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/puffing-versus-misrepresentation-at-auction/

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.