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What Is An Antique?
WHEN DOES AN ITEM stop being just "old" and become eligible for the veneration of being called "antique"? In 1930 Congress passed a law stating that antiques are items made prior to the year 1830. This is the legal definition, which is used chiefly for import duties and taxes.
Today there is a general agreement among dealers and collectors alike that anything made one hundred or more years ago is entitled to be called an antique. This is the age usually referred to in speaking of antique furniture, and the most commonly used meaning of the word.
However, due to the sentimental value of many items belonging to elderly or deceased members of their families, and the mistaken idea of the true ages of these treasures, (Why, it must have been in Grandma's attic forever!) some people refer to anything old or obsolete as being "antique." This is a common misnomer among the well-meaning but misinformed. There is not much you can do when someone shows you a late Victorian chair which was owned by her Aunt Agatha, and proudly tells you that it is two hundred years old, except try to smile and mutter something noncommittal like, "My, how interesting."
Does friend Husband shudder at the mention of antique furniture? It may well be that he has come into contact with poor specimens and has been told that, "It's rickety because it's so old-it's an antique, you know."
This time Husband is right. If a chair is too wobbly to be used, it should be either discarded, or, if it is of excellent style and workmanship but suffers from years of misuse and abuse, it should be placed in a museum where it can be seen but not used.
To be of any value, an antique must be sturdy and in good enough condition so that the man of the house can heap his 180 pounds in comfort, and the guests can sit where they please without warnings of the imminent danger of collapse.
A good piece of antique furniture was well made and if it received common-sense wear and tear it should be as strong today as when it was new.