What makes an item “antique”?
The word “antique” generally refers to an older object valued because of its aesthetic or historical significance. The word’s definition changed in the 1930s. Then, as now, true antiques were considered artwork and came in duty-free. However, up until the 1930s the increasingly busy U.S. Customs Office kept facing the hard question: What objects should we classify as authentic antiques? At the time, the word had different meanings for different people. In European collecting circles, the word could describe an antiquity from ancient Rome or Greece. In the United States, with its much shorter view of history, the word “antique” could describe an object made as recently as the Civil War. Businessmen looking to skirt duties tried to use an even vaguer definition, using the word to describe any beautiful and valued item that was less-than-new. Seeking clarity (and a guidepost for what to collect duty on), the Customs Office polled dealers for a definition and from these formulated one of i
The answer to this question differs depending on your country. In the United States, the concept of "antique" was originally related to how the item was produced. It is estimated that factory mass production of items such as furniture, clocks, mirrors, et cetera began circa 1830. Since it was around 1930 that the Customs Office decided to come up with a definition (in order to decide whether to charge a duty to bring these items into the country), the decision was made that an item that was at least 100 years old would be considered an antique, thus duty-free. The consensus among antiques collectors is that this definition is sound. Therefore, in this year 2010, an item manufactured in 1910 or before would be considered an antique.