From auction listings to collectors' blogs, more and more toys and games are being described as "vintage." Vintage items are typically more collectible and frequently more expensive than their modern counterparts. Because vintage items are no longer in production, they often command higher prices than reproductions or reprints, even if they are physically in worse condition. However, vintage items can still be affordable compared to older antiques. Unlike many collecting terms, "vintage" doesn't seem to have a precise definition. Many sellers use it loosely, but it's still possible to establish a rough meaning.
Origins of the Term
The term "vintage" originated in the wine industry. A wine's vintage is the year in which it was produced. Informally, wine lovers sometimes use "vintage" simply to mean older, high-quality wines. In toy circles, the term originally had the same meaning. For example, a Star Wars Death Squad Commander figure might be referred to as "1978 vintage" to distinguish it from the later, but otherwise identical, Star Destroyer Commander figure. However, the term gradually came to be used more loosely.
Arguments over terminology will be familiar to collectors in any area. The precise definition of "antique," for example, is a subject of contention. Some writers suggest that "vintage" refers to anything produced before the early 1990s, while others set the cutoff date at 1965. Roughly speaking, the term seems to refer to toys and games that are out of production and have been for some time -- that is, toys that were current when today's adults were children, or earlier. As a rule, reproduced items are not considered vintage. A "replica vintage tin robot" is a replica of a vintage toy, not a vintage toy itself.
The Spirit of an Age
Some definitions of "vintage" are less about date and more about style. Online vintage sales site Ruby Lane states that a vintage item "should speak of the era from which it came." Thus, a chess set from the 1950s might not be particularly "vintage," because chess set design is relatively timeless, whereas a wind-up tin robot might be more expressive of the era, especially since such toys aren't common in the 21st century.
Vintage Toys and Games in Practice
Although all these definitions of "vintage" vary, they do have certain factors in common. To be vintage, a toy or collectible must not be current. If you can walk into a store and buy it today, it's probably not vintage, no matter how physically old it is. It shouldn't be recent, either: The Xbox is out of production, but it's not vintage (it might be retro, but that's another story). Atari 2600? Absolutely vintage. In the end, however, with a subjective term like this one, there will always be borderline cases. If an online seller thinks that the second edition of "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" is "vintage," don't get into a fit of purist outrage and assume they're a crook; nostalgia is different for everyone.
- Photo Credit davincidig/iStock/Getty Images
What Is Vintage Style?
Vintage style is tough to define. It involves more than just owning old stuff. Embracing vintage style is both a design aesthetic...
Definition of Antique Jewelry
Antique jewelry is not only beautiful, but also allows the wearer to appreciate the styles, craftsmanship, and history of a past era....
Definition of Vintage Art
The broad definition of vintage art is generally commercial artwork created from the 19th through the mid-20th century. Vintage art is not...
What Does Software Mean?
Software refers to the programs and data that instruct a computer's hardware (or physical parts) how to work together and how to...
What Does 'MM' Mean in Accounting?
All industries have their own unique language, and accountancy is no exception. Some of the terms in use are simple acronyms, such...
How to Identify Vintage Sterling Flatware
Vintage sterling flatware is identified by hallmarks, maker's marks, patterns and pure silver content. Sterling silver flatware made in the United States...
What Are the Differences Between Vintage & Antique?
Whether the subject is collectibles, furniture, cars or electronics, you may be confused when it comes to the difference between an antique...
What Do the Numbers Mean on the Vintage Ball Mason Jars?
Ball brand mason jars were originally produced in 1884 by the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company (now simply called the Ball Corporation)....