As previously noted, legally an antique is at least one hundred years old from the current date, but there are certainly a number of things that are usually considered collectibles but that also qualify as antiques. There are golf clubs, for instance, that are more than one hundred years old, as are Art Nouveau posters. Along with several other types of century-old objects, however, golf clubs and posters are generally placed in the collectibles category rather than in the antiques category, because their collectibility is rather a new idea. The concept of mass-manufactured items like golf clubs or posters or advertising memorabilia being something that people would want to collect in multiples is, in fact, a twentieth-century phenomenon. Posters, after all, were produced by the thousands and left out to disintegrate in the rain. Millions of advertising gizmos — all "throwaways" — were distributed nationwide. And golf clubs, like all sports equipment, are purely utilitarian. Such things, whether they were manufactured in the hundreds or just five at a time, were never intended to be anything other than useful tools of one kind or another. This, too, makes them legitimately collectible, for true collectibility is always inadvertent.
Is it Art?
Some collectibles — including some of the photographs, posters, glass, and furniture discussed in this book — are recognized as being works of art. One definition of art may be its closeness to the cutting edge. Art is always modern in its own time, fresh seeming, probably unfamiliar, and very possibly unloved or misunderstood. In every era, the truly cutting edge design will incorporate a concept without historical precedent. (Folk art, on the other hand, is always sui generis.)
On your way to assembling a great collection, therefore, it might help to keep in mind that some great collectibles (such as Pez dispensers and baseball cards), will never be considered works of art, but furniture, ceramics, glass, vintage clothing, and photographs are all collectibles that have been the subjects of extensive exhibitions by influential and important museums. Once that happens, formerly overlooked objects, even the most utilitarian ones, begin to be seen by others as works of art.
Indeed, if your collection of Eames furniture or Orrefors glass were an exact duplicate of the Eames and Orrefors pieces that comprise museum collections, that museum imprimatur would ultimately make your own collection more admirable and more desirable to other knowledgeable collectors of similar things.
How Is a Collectible Created?
Certainly never by intention. The modern-day manufacturer creating thousands of dolls, ceramics, or bronzes and calling them collectibles does not make them collectibles — not even by advertising such products as "limited editions" or by promising to "destroy the original mold." Such artificially created collectibles are not included in this book, because although someone might some day choose to collect them, there is really nothing to learn in studying them. They are synthetic collectibles, and despite the hype that surrounds them, they will never be as desirable or valuable as the collectible that springs directly from the taste and idiosyncrasies of the individual collector and our culture.