The common definition of vintage is a collectible object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age, yet it does in fact vary depending on the source, product, and year. Motor vehicles are an exception to the 100-year rule. The customary definition of antique requires that an item be at least 100 years old and in original, unaltered condition—which excludes most cars. Therefore, cars are generally considered antique if 25 years old or more. (Cars can be registered as “classic” when 20 years old.)[citation needed] This is not a universally accepted idea, but rather a convention among car collectors and enthusiasts.

In the United States, the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act defined vintage/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.” 1830 was the approximate beginning of mass production in the United States. These definitions were intended to allow people of that time to distinguish between genuine antique pieces, vintage items, and collectible objects.

The alternative term, antiquities, commonly refers to the remains of ancient art and everyday items from antiquity, which themselves are often archaeological artifacts. An antiquarian is a person who collects and studies antiquities or things of the past.

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