I’m a collector of certain ceramic items; I mainly trawl eBay, and I’m on there every few days, scanning for anything interesting. Not that in these Hard Times I feel justified in buying much, but it’s still interesting to look.
However, can anyone please enlighten me as to precisely what the word “vintage” is supposed to mean in a buying-things context? For the last couple of years it seems to have been eBay’s phrase-du-jour. Sellers have latched onto the word like a swarm of swallows in late summer spreading the vibe that it’s almost time to leave. It seems to be plastered across every item that was manufactured before the turn of the 21st century (that’s only nine years ago, if anyone’s stopped counting).
The logic seems to be: “Vintage is an old-sounding word, and I’m selling something pretty old, so I’ll just call it ‘vintage’ and dozens of people will want to bid for it.”
Some relevant definitions of “vintage” from Dictionary.com:
“6. the class of a dated object with reference to era of production or use: a hat of last year’s vintage.”
“9. representing the high quality of a past time: vintage cars; vintage movies.”
“11. being the best of its kind: They praised the play as vintage O’Neill.”
Many collectable items on eBay could be classed as being of a particular “vintage”;
However in this case the word only makes sense when accompanied by a qualification, for example “50s vintage”, or “Georgian vintage”. I believe I’m yet to see this in any of the sections I look at regularly on eBay. The word “vintage” on its own, for selling purposes, doesn’t describe anything.
Many items on eBay may be of high quality or the best of their kind;
In which case why not just be bang on the button accurate and describe them as “High Quality”, “Top quality”, or “Perfect example(s) of …” ? Rather than using a single, fuzzy in-vogue adjective that doesn’t make the items stand out from all the hundreds of others shouting “Genuine vintage blah!” OK, it means the seller only uses one word in their description rather than two or three, but which is more helpful, accurate and reassuring to a buyer: “L@@k at my vintage watches!!!!” or “High quality Victorian pocket time-pieces”? I know which item I’d take a look at, and it’s not the one advertised by meaningless catchwords and spurious keyboard characters.
So in essence there’s really only one appropriate context where “vintage” can be used, and that’s with the addition of a specific qualification in terms of a recognisable date, era, creative movement, etc. And therein lies the problem. Sellers are describing everything with it, stand-alone, regardless of context, and in most cases it doesn’t add any value at all to an item’s description. How does “Wonderful vintage handbag!” give me any idea about the item other than that it’s a handbag? Does the description “vintage watch” tell me anything about a timepiece’s condition, style, era or manufacturer? “Vintage Al$ati@n puppie$!!!” anyone? (OK, that last one was a joke as you can’t sell pets on eBay, but you get the idea).
I’ve half a mind to post a spoof eBay auction for the word “vintage”: in the sense that use of it on eBay is becoming more dated and old-fashioned by the minute, and I’d like to get shot of it, thanks.