Don’t you just love the pretty colours and designs of special cups and saucers we see at High Teas? These are called trios; a cup, saucer and plate or a duo if there is no plate. Picture a cozy fireside in winter, the laughter of friends, a crisp white table cloth spread over a coffee table laden with small delicacies, a warmed teapot and a cup of piping hot tea. The creation of an instant miniature party; charming and delightful. The weather in Australia is extremely wet at present, and we may not need the fire going just yet but we certainly could do with a hot tea in a beautiful cup and saucer.
Since a young age, I have always been attracted to the colours and shapes of Fine China; beautiful teacups, saucers and plates of various sizes, and blue and white china of any shape, size, and design. I have never been a serious collector but cherish a few unique and special pieces that are not necessarily antique.
I’ve inherited some of my current collection, and the absolute favourite is my fathers’ tea set. A paper-thin crinkled fine bone china tea set, white with gold trim and complete with a cake plate and large sugar bowl but alas, no Teapot. Made by Shelley, England, it is delightful for a special occasion -I love it.
A few pieces recently I found in garage sales online; a French Limoges cup and saucer and a stunning Shelley Art Deco 1920s black and white Fine China Tea set. And so my collection has grown. I already had three different styled black and white teacups and saucers from the 1920s but now my collection holds a complete tea set of garland black and white. They are truly stunning, so smart and unique.
To add to the eclectic nature of my black and white collection are four unusual mugs ( modern not vintage) purchased from David Jones in the 1990s. They are white with grey pencil style drawings of antique knives, forks and spoons on each side. They are very fine and just lovely for a cup of tea in the evening because they are not too large like a breakfast cup and hence nicknamed ‘a night-time cup’.
I have sold some pieces I had no attachment to and passed others down in the family, depending on birthright. As I’m sure my mother did before me, I think some pieces naturally belong to different children or grandchildren and will be passed down along with the stories of each piece. Time will tell if they have any interest in Fine China anyway. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I still have a delicate, antique cup and saucer safely packed away, waiting for my Auntie to visit that is naturally hers but too precious to risk posting.
The terms Antique, Collectible, Vintage and even Retro are often blurred. And there seems to be some confusion when visiting online garage sites and the like, where if a teacup trio is attractive and old looking sellers seem to think it must be worth a lot and are attempting to sell them as true antiques. In some cases, the prices are wildly exaggerated, but here and there, you can find genuine people asking a reasonable price for goods much closer to what they are worth.
What is an Antique?
Antiques are valued due to their aesthetic or historical significance concerning age. No matter what they are or what they are made from, antiques must be at least one hundred years old. So any antique today must be made before March 1921. As time goes on, these older items, because they were often manufactured or made by hand or artisan craftsmen and women from specific design periods, are rare and cannot be replaced. The more perfect the condition means the value should be higher.
Collectibles are valued items less than 100 years old. Stamps, thimbles, LP’s tins, knives, rolling pins, teapots, wooden spoons, wooden chopping boards, cups and saucers, flatware, spoons, vases, brooches- almost anything can be collectibles.
Vintage was a term we often use to describe wine in the past but now is used to market older objects but not antiques. Mostly objects about 20-40 years old that have become fashionable now and date often from the 1960s to 1970s. These can include fashion items; clothing, jewellery, glassware and homewares. Vintage is more about the actual making of an item, what its made of so think old lace, beading, pearls, timber, glass, farm equipment, tools kitchen utensils etc
Retro is a term applied to objects 25 years old or less, usually from the 1950s era. Retro is from the French word “retrograde.” a reference to the past — but it is not from the past. Retro imitates a certain style era, but not fakes or replicas- items that give a nod to the past. Leather jackets, record players, geometric kitchen items,, books, magazines, and posters. Retro is more about the appearance of the item than what it’s made from.
The age of an object, be it an antique, collectible, retro piece or vintage has no effect on the value of the item. It is all about supply and demand. Odd but true, the recent trend and love for Vintage have made prices for these items ridiculously high. – in some cases over the price of true antiques or even rare antiques.
The prices of Antiques tend to stay consistent and do not fluctuate greatly whereas collectibles are priced on trends so their value is more subjective to the whims of supply and demand and what people want at any given time. Antiques stand the test of time but the value of collectibles is more speculative.
Prices of vintage, retro and collectibles are fashion and trend-driven rather than aesthetic significance. I have a house nearby full of what the Newtown Hipsters would call Retro. Things a baby boomers’ parents may have had in their homes. These are sought after items to a certain select group that become popular as trends change from one decade to another- in the end, is all about demand. Sometimes a collectible will sell for much more than an antique because there is no demand for the rare antique and high demand for the collectible or vintage item. Have a look at online garage sales and you’ll be amazed.
Old things around the home can enhance our spaces adding a touch of elegance or interest and creating an appealing ambience whether they are antique, vintage or retro. It all depends on what we find that has relevance to our lives and makes us feel good in our surroundings. I love the look of a rustic vintage piece with an antique. It all depends on our own style.
All content and images Di Baker 2021 unless otherwise cited.