There are many misconceptions around about what makes an item antique, or vintage, or is it perhaps a collectible, reproduction or simply retro?!?
The rule of thumb used by most antique dealers is that anything over 100 years old is an antique. Items that are from 20 to 25 years old, but not over 100 years, are often called vintage (and sometimes collectible or retro, although these days retro generally applies to the 1950's era). Since imported antiques from Europe aren't taxed, there is a legal definition for all of this. In 1930, the U.S. government put a tax law into effect that an item was considered antique if made before 1830 (hence the 100-year-rule). In 1996, the tax law was revised to read that "if the essential character is changed, or more than 50 percent of the item has been repaired or restored, the item is no longer considered an antique and is subject to duty."
So what are collectibles? A collectible is defined as "a valuable object less than a hundred years old, often distinguished from antiques." However, almost anything can be a collectible, yet most people don't "collect" 75-year-old dining tables or cupboards from England. They're just vintage. Wait another 25 years and they, too, will become antique.
Reproductions, as the name implies, are newly made items to look like they came from a long-gone style or era. For example, there might be a Louis XIV cabinet that dates to around 1680 (original, antique and probably very expensive), or there can be a reproduction made in the 1950's that looks somewhat like the original. Can there be a reproduction that is also an antique? yes. If that Louis XIV cabinet was made in the 1850's, it is both a reproduction and an antique.
Watch out when buying something that is labeled "antique-style" or "vintage-style." These pieces are mostly reproductions that have been made to look old, but are almost always newly mass-produced products. My pet peeve are stores that are called something like "Vintage French Farmhouse" yet sell items that are not from France, are 100% new and certainly have never been on a farm. Perhaps it's just the style and look that they're going after, which is fine and the items are often cheaper than the originals from Europe, but I prefer the real deal.
Does any of this affect the pricing of vintage or antique furniture? Yes and no. Generally, furniture and accessories that are older, original pieces in good condition sell for more money than newer items that may not be in the best shape. However, over the years markets tend to swing widely based on current trends and prices will depend on the supply and demand of items. I often see pieces in Europe that 20 years ago would have sold for the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars, yet now are readily available for around 1000 dollars because the younger generations don't necessarily want the same pieces as their parents or grandparents did.
One final note: not everyone uses the same terms as those above. Some vendors will call ALL of their pieces "vintage," whether they're new, used or antique. Others will call anything that is older than 25 or 50 years old as "antique." The best thing to do is ask a lot of questions if you're seriously looking at buying an item.
On a funny note, I was driving around the Washington D.C. area a few days ago and saw a truck that had printed on its side in big, bold letters: "Antique Tables Made Daily"...