Vintage or Repro?

French street signs (above) Do you know which one is vintage?

Before I go into my "Buyer Beware" banter, let me preface this by saying I don't mind reproductions. In fact, some are done quite well and are more affordable than their vintage counterparts. You can still get the look without paying the higher price tag of the real thing.

With that said, now I'm going to rant...

One of my first mistakes many years ago was purchasing a Royal Dux Art Nouveau vase, similar to this one above. I was at a flea market and ecstatic to find the vase. I listed in on eBay with great anticipation, only to be notified from a fellow eBayer, that it was a reproduction. I was devastated. Knowledge is power in this business, and I had know idea what I was doing. Had I known how to identify the correct Royal Dux markings on the bottom, as well as the quality of the porcelain, I would have not purchased it.

Reproductions have been done for centuries, ie; a vintage Louis XVI chair made in the 1940's is still considered "vintage" even though modeled after a piece from the 18th Century.

There are so many reproductions, that I just wanted to focus on some that I've been seeing a lot of lately.

antique French crowns

French crowns: I have been collecting and selling these for 14 years now. They were once used to adorn saints in churches and sometimes used in the theatre. The originals are brilliant in person with fine detail and a nice weight to the metal. There are reproductions being made now that you can purchase for about $80. Some are passing these off as vintage, but they are not. They are manufactured in China. As long as you're paying a reasonable price for a repro, that's fine... you can get the look. An authentic French crown will run from $250 and up. Sometimes in the thousands.

This is an antique French crown. Note the detail in the metal work and brilliant stones.

More detail on this close-up view...

This is a reproduction crown (above). Made from a mold, it is very "tinny" in person, lightweight and the stones are dull.

c. 1860-90 mercury glass chalice with applied glass "jewels"

Mercury glass: This glass was hand blown, double-walled, then silvered between the layers with a liquid silvering solution, and sealed. "Mercury" silvered glass was produced originally from around 1840 until at least 1930 in Bohemia, Germany, and England from 1849-55. Companies in the United States, including the Boston and Sandwich Glass Co., New England Glass Co. and the Boston Silver Glass Company, made silvered glass from about 1852-80. Vases, goblets and all form of tableware were decorated with a variety of techniques including painting, enameling, etching, and engraving.

These antique mercury glass chalice has ornate detail, aging, and painting.

These are modern reproductions. Note the "ribbing" and the one-layered glass. These can be purchased for as little as $10 and up. Just make sure that you know what you're buying and that the price reflects it. The antique pieces generally sell from $75 and upwards into the hundreds. Look closely!

Antique Santos - Italy circa 1860-1870
Reproduction Santos

Vintage and antique items have a rich history. The patina, nicks and bangs on antiques reveal a full life of use and allow you to imagine where the piece was and who had it. The quality and workmanship is detailed. Whether you choose to purchase an antique or a reproduction, that's up to you. Just be sure and know who you're purchasing it from and look at the price. Make sure the price reflects the age and authenticity. Ask questions. If you're at an antique show, know your seller. Make sure if you're paying $500 for that jeweled crown, that it's a real one!
Have fun!


Lynn, is the second one the real one? I should have taken more pictures of signs. I do believe there was a difference in font size though.

Thanks for the post. The repro vs. vintage can be a delicate issue. Many times, vintage furnishings and housewares can be heftier and of better quality (not all the time of course). But you could say repros are a great homage to vintage pieces.

It'd be great if you had a little guide on small items that make things vintage vs. repro. I know it'd be a long list, but it'd be fun.
Thanks for the info...all valuable information :)
Chicncheap: Thanks for your comments. Yes, the sign on the right is the real one! That "repro" list does sound like fun. Great idea!!
Unknown said…
The one on the right seems real- in the blue background and in the shape. the other items picture are easier to spot the reproductions. LOVE the vintage French crown. OOps, just read your post, one correct! great post ( as always)...
Anonymous said…
Thank you for such important info, because it is so worth it to know what indeed you are paying for.
Kelly Jackson said…
What a great post. I'm more of a junkster but I will file all this information away 'cos you never know when you're going to find what .... Your vintage crown is so beautiful and magical - I have never seen one before.
WOW the antique French crowns are just AMAZING!

Jen Ramos
'Cards & Prints You'll Love...'

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