Technically, an antique item is 100 years or older; a vintage item is 20 years or older; a retro item is something designed to look like it’s from an older era. Colloquially however, we most often refer to furniture or jewellery in terms of being antique; clothes in terms of being vintage; and anything vaguely representative of the 60s or 70s as being retro.


Antiques are collected for many different reasons – it might be purely because you like the aesthetics of the beautiful and interesting objects you come across that are not available nowadays or it could be because you want to make some financial investments.

Whatever the case, if you’re looking to ‘get into’ antiques, try visiting one of the many good fairs around the country including those run by LAPADA (Association For Professional Art And Antiques Dealers) and BADA (British Antique Dealers’ Association) because they’ll give you a real feel for all levels of the market meaning you’ll be more informed when you visit your local dealers in a bid to start your collection.


Vintage items can be found at antique fairs as well but you can also take a look in charity shops, specialist vintage shops or online. As previously mentioned, the term vintage is most often associated with clothing, for which there is a veritable smorgasbord of outlets to choose from.

Vintage shopping does not have so many rules as antique shopping partly because the aim of vintage shopping is more centered around authentically representing an era rather than going after brand names. For instance, if you’re looking to buy a vintage plate from the 1950s, you’re less concerned with which brand has produced this plate (although a good quality one will always be a better investment) and more concerned with whether it encompasses the 1950s aesthetic.

Check out this useful post about tips for buying vintage clothing.


Ikea Retro LampRetro shopping is more about creating a feel of nostalgia – the items are usually relatively inexpensive because they are imitations of another period but this doesn’t mean to say they are less attractive or won’t look as good in your home. For instance, IKEA is well known for its simplistic and modern designs.

However, quite often this idea of ‘modernism’ is derived from the ideas of modernism purported by the 1960s. This IKEA floor lamp (see right), for example, is as retro as you like yet, very attractive and would go perfectly well alongside a real antique or vintage collection but would never be an ‘investment piece’ because it’s not authentic.

This all means it can be a bit of a minefield when you’re looking to do some antique or vintage shopping, so here are our top tips to help you navigate through the time-travel.

Be prepared. Know your budget, roughly what you’re looking for and any measurements you’ll need for furniture.

Be careful before spending lots of cash on retro items, because although sometimes they can be popular at auction, they don’t always accrue much value.

Talk to the sales assistants and auctioneers. They have some good advice to give and it’s always good to build up a rapport with your favourite local sellers – it could lead to many a special item in the future.

Always check the item over. Pick it up if you can, test hinges and fastenings, check for any damages. Don’t buy an item that needs too many repairs because you’ll never get around to all of them.

Buy the best you can afford. The old ‘quality over quantity’ argument, always wins here – save your money for the items you have-to-have rather than buying to bulk up your collection.

Don’t buy if you don’t like. ‘It might be a good investment though…’ is not a good argument because if you don’t love it, chances are someone else won’t.

Always ask about the history of an item. It’s important to find out about restoration and damage history for the provenance and value of the item but you could also pick up a great little story alongside.

Beware of fakes and forgeries! They are out there and can sometimes be difficult to spot so always go to trusted sellers (another reason to get on friendly terms with your local ones!).

Always get a receipt when making a purchase. Make sure it includes details of the age; material; damages and restoration history; and value.

So there you have it – now you’re free to tackle the vintage, retro and antique markets.

For more information on our upcoming sales, check out our Calendar.

If you have any more questions, get in touch with Mallams today.

Pin It on Pinterest