antique Badminton Cabinet
antique Badminton Cabinet

The term antique refers to an item such as a piece of furniture, work of art, decorative item or functional tool that is over 100 years old. Different categories of object have varying age-limits on what can be called an antique, but in general the legal definition as based on the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in the USA uses this 100-year limit. The act defines antiques as:

"works of art (except rugs and carpets made after the year 1700), collections in illustration of the progress of the arts, works in bronze, marble, terra cotta, parian, pottery or porcelain, artistic antiquities and objects of ornamental character or educational value which shall have been produced prior to the year 1830.”1

It was around 1830 that mechanisation and standardisation led to the beginning of mass production in the USA.2

The Tariff act used this point to determine the status of an object as an antique, as most antiques are considered to be individual hand-made items with a high level of craftsmanship.

Antiques are often highly collectible due to their rarity and age, and in general the term is used for objects that display a high level of craftsmanship and design. The act of shopping for antiques, at antique shops, auction houses and car boot sales, is known as antiquing.


Antiques are very popular collector's items.

Many collectors tend to focus their antiques collections on specific areas. For example, some collectors focus on a specific antique period whilst others may choose specific items such as furniture, art or jewellery.

Collectors may obtain antique items through antique auctions, antique fairs, car boot sales, antiques shops and inheritance.

Though there are many different types of antiques, the most valuable are usually those unique items with a specific connection to a person or moment from history.


Antiques are dated by a specific period of time, the name of which usually relates to the reigning monarch of the period. For example, in the UK a piece of furniture made between 1901 and 1910 is known as ‘Edwardian’, as Edward VII was the King during those years.

Different countries have different names for such periods depending on their royal and political histories.

Main article: List of British antique periods

Main article: List of French antique periods

Main article: List of Chinese antique periods

Main article: List of Japanese antique periods

Main article: List of Italian antique periods

United States
Main article: List of American antique periods

Types of antiques

An antique can technically be any object over 100 years old. However, there are certain areas of antiques which collectors tend to focus on due to their desirability and value. An item that is old is not necessarily valuable, as factors such as quality, design and condition all contribute to its worth on the collectors markets.

Pinner Qing Dynasty Vase, sold for £53.1 million
Pinner Qing Dynasty Vase,
sold for £53.1 million

Main article: Furniture

Main article: Art

Main article: Porcelain

Main article: Figurines

Main article: Jewellery

Main article: Watches

Main article: Clocks

Main article: Toys

Music Boxes
Main article: Music Boxes

Main article: Bottles

Main article: List of types of antiques

Trade terms

Main article: List of antiques collecting terms

World’s most expensive antique

The world’s most expensive piece of antique furniture ever sold at auction is Badminton Cabinet, a 14-feet-high ebony and gilt bronze commissioned by Henry Somerset, the 3rd Duke of Beaufort, in 1726. Described by Christie's as probably the finest Florentine art work of its time, it sold at auction in 2004 for a World Record £19,045,250 to Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein.3

The most expensive vase ever sold is the Pinner Qing Dynasty Vase that sold for £53.1m on November 11 2010.

Other notable antiques

Main article: List of notable antiques

Antique dealers & Auction houses

Main article: List of antique dealers
Main article: List of UK Auction houses

Antique fairs

Main article: List of UK antiques fairs
Main article: List of UK antiques and collectibles fair organizers
Main article: List of international antiques fairs

Clubs and societies

Main article: List of antique collectors' clubs and societies
Main article: List of antique dealers' associations

Related Wikicollecting articles

Paul Fraser Collectibles - Antiques News Service
Antiques and Collectibles National Association
The European Fine Arts Fair
Gilai Collectibles
Mallett Antiques
Viebahn Fine Arts
Auction Central News

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