Antique or collectible?

Is it an antique? A collectible? A piece of art? All three?

By definition, an item is legally considered an antique if it is greater than 100 years old. The term collectible is often used to define objects that are not yet old enough to be classified as antiques. However not all antiques are collectibles, and not all collectibles antiques. The word collectible is difficult to define as it connotes different things for different people.

In general, a collectible is an object that was made in large numbers and is coveted by a good many people, thereby creating a “market” for the item. Furthermore, the greater the interest in an item, the more information becomes available, which in turn creates greater interest. Items that spontaneously become “collectible” are not specifically marketed as a collectible, but become such over time as interest builds in the item. Then there are companies that intentionally create objects marketed specifically as collectibles. They sell their items, then stop production for a time, creating a search frenzy among collectors, only to start production again, continuing this over and over until the market is saturated and people lose interest.

In the book Antiques Roadshow Collectibles by Carol Prisant, collectibles are separated into three categories, artistic or historical objects that are not necessarily antique, yet when they become so, will retain their value based on their artistic or historical merit. Then there are massed produced objects with little or no artistic or historical merit, that were manufactured specifically to be sold as collectibles. It is unlikely that objects such as this will retain any value once they reach the 100 year mark. Finally, there are items with specific associations to a famous person or event of a particular time period. When these items become antique, they may or may not retain their value, depending on whether or not the association is one with which people are still familiar.

Is it a work of art? Many collectibles will never be considered works of art. A work of art at least in part should be defined as an item with artistic merit that stands the test of time in that it is without historical precedent. It breaks new ground. Although Barbie is certainly considered a collectible, she will never be considered a work of art. A walking stick with an ivory handle that was carefully and lovingly carved by its maker is a unique piece of art. Special attention must be given to objects recognized as artistically or historically significant, many of which are subsequently exhibited in museums.

In assembling a great, or even a good collection, it is best to consider the value of an object over time, whether it has artistic or historical merit.

Love what you collect.  It is best to carefully seek out fine examples of what you are collecting.  Quality over quantity. 

For antique cane and walking stick enthusiasts