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Antiques, Collectibles, & Memorabilia: Do You Know the Difference?

The world of antiques can be confusing. What's the difference between an antique and collectible? Aren't collectibles and memorabilia really the same thing? In this month's column, I'll de-mystify these terms, so that you'll be appropriately armed for your next antique adventure.

Antique

Basically, an antique is something old that has value because of aesthetic or historical reasons. Generally, if a piece is over 100 years old, it is considered an antique. Although, I do know that some people use the 50-year mark for Canadian pieces; the rationale being that Canada is a young country relative to places such as Europe and Asia. However, I'm old fashioned and apply the 100-year definition to Canadian pieces.

Collectible

A collectible is something that is less than 100 years old that has value because of aesthetic or historical reasons. This term fills the gap for valuables that aren't quite old enough to be an antique.

One category of collectible is items with intrinsic artistic merit. A stunning Art Deco table fits into this category. It was beautiful when it was made in the 1930s, is beautiful today and will still be beautiful when it hits the 100-year old mark.

A second category is mass-produced collectibles. Beanie Babies, trading cards and Hummel figurines fit into this category. They don't necessarily have a lot of artistic merit. But manufacturers have created desirability by producing limited editions.

Another category is items associated with particular people. For example, anything worn by the Beatles or Elvis Presley is collectible.

Memorabilia

There is a difference between collectibles and memorabilia. Collectibles are things that are ornamental. They never served an utilitarian purpose. A piece of memorabilia served a particular purpose. Movie posters, sports programs, cameras, television sets and musical instruments are all examples of items that fall into this category. Movie posters were used to sell movies. Sports programs were used to communicate information. And, cameras, television sets and musical instruments all serve a function.

Martin Swinton owns Take-A-Boo Emporium located in Toronto, Canada. He has appeared on a variety of television programs; does furniture restoration; caning and rushing repairs; appraisals and has taught courses on antiques at the Learning Annex. Martin can be reached at http://www.takeaboo.com

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