October 17, 2011

Ancient antiquities of good vintage

I have been following E-Bay auctions of late, particularly for manual typewriters (the last manufacturer recently closed for good) and telephones (with dials and cables attached, not the mobile variety).  There are some real bargains to be had, if you're a bit knowledgeable about each item's history and rarity. 

Some sellers try to appear naive: "I cleared out my grandmother's attic and found this old typewriter lying around.  No idea what it's worth but starting price is 100 Euros." Others attach adjectives like "antique" or "vintage" to telephones that are only 20-30 years old in the hope of attracting the high rollers.

It is precisely this arbitrary use of descriptions of age that bothers me.  I can understand a seller wanting to present his wares in the best possible light but when the (nearly new) article is accompanied by a photograph, then a description like "uralt" immediately comes across as incongruous and disingenuous.

Perhaps the time is ripe for a re-evaluation of what exactly we mean by terms like "antique" or "historic".  Or maybe it's a matter of perspective: There are common, household articles that used to be part of my daily life and are merely 'old' or 'outmoded.'  For a sixteen-year old, however, such articles could well be genuine antiques.
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Digital Telephone Book by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.