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How to tell if your antique store find is actually vintage

Is your vintage store find legit? Or is it retro inspired? Here's how to tell the difference

Finding amazing deals for vintage pieces at the antique store is always a thrill. But how can you know whether your new find is actually vintage? Many people get swept away by retro and antique furniture, but with the trendy hype around midcentury and antique decor, it can be difficult to tell whether a product from a vintage store was manufactured within the past few years.




10 minutes

Here are a few tips to help vintage enthusiasts like you tell whether an item is "new" vintage or true vintage.

Vintage phone on a side table

Look at the manufacturer's label

One of the fastest ways to tell if an item is true vintage is to check the manufacturer's label.

Step 1: Look for a brand name.

The manufacturer label is often listed on the backside or underside of an item. If there's a brand name, a quick Google search can tell you whether the item is vintage.

Step 2: Double-check the age of the brand.

Sometimes, you might see a brand name you recognize, like Pottery Barn, and assume the item in question is new. However, some brands, like Pottery Barn, have been around for decades. A quick Google search of the item plus the brand name will tell you whether it has been recently manufactured or is a vintage find from that brand.

Step 3: Look for a 'Made in the U.S.A' label.

You can also check for a "Made in the U.S.A." inscription. Most products today are made in China. If a product is listed as "Made in the U.S.A.," it could be vintage!

Room with vintage decor

Check for a date

If you're unable to find the item's manufacturing label or a brand name that could indicate when the item was made, see if there is a date on the item somewhere. Some products like paintings, books, tins, and maps have dates on them. While it may be difficult to locate a date, you can always ask a vintage store manager for help.

Vintage chest as a living room coffee table

Look up the category of the item online

Amazon and big home decor stores sell all kinds of "new" vintage or reimagined retro items. So, an easy way to determine whether an item is true vintage is to do a quick Google search of the category of the item. For example, say you found a vintage-style toaster. Search "vintage toaster" on Amazon or on Google and look to see if your item pops up. If it does, click on the image and see if that item is still selling and manufactured today.

A vintage setup with an old bike and an old suitcase holding items

Consider the material the product is made of

Many vintage and antique items are usually made of wood or metal. Newer items are often made with more plastic. For example, a vintage recipe box will likely be made of metal, while newer versions tend to be made of plastic.

Now, this tip doesn't necessarily guarantee whether an item is vintage. However, assessing the quality of the material and the condition it's in can give you a general idea of its origin.

Vintage decor with grandmillenial chaise lounge and traditional cabinet

Talk to an expert

If none of the above helps you determine whether your item is vintage, you may want to turn to an expert. Online forums and niche antique websites can have plenty of info on whether a product is truly vintage. Look for a site that dives into details about vintage Tupperware or classic paintings. Or, consider heading to your local pawn shop or speak with a vintage store manager to get a better idea of the age of your product.

While not every item is going to come with manufacturer labels or dates, particularly if you tend to gravitate toward handmade pieces, it can be helpful to look at these labels when searching for the perfect vintage piece to add to your home. So take your time and look carefully at vintage store items before you purchase, and don't neglect the power of the internet!

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