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In our current era of online selling, and Big Brother (with tongue in cheek) always watching, descriptions and keywords are very important in the success of online sales. The correct keywords are what deliver the most relevant content to customers searching to buy items online. That said, it is easy to use the wrong keywords when describing the time periods and styles of your item(s). The wrong keywords will lead to you the seller being taken advantage of, not trusted, or simply looking like an idiot, all translating to low sales numbers.

To help you become more informed, we have listed below the most common misused keywords, that when used correctly, produce higher quality ads, and directly translate into more sales and more money.


Antique: 100 years old or more

Vintage: 20 years old or more (see Retro)

Mid Century: 1940-1969 (<—- Kinda pushin’ it, see below.)


Art Deco: Refers to a design style popular from the Mid 1920’s - 1940’s

Art Nouveau: Refers to a design style popular from the 1890’s - 1910’s

Victorian: Refers to a design style popular from 1837 - 1901 (The same dates as Queen Victorias Lifespan)

Retro: A looser term, typically referring to the 1980’s and 1990’s (see Kitsch) where everything seemed to be an obvious, and useless reinvention of a previous style, design, idea, or practicality rather than a stand alone. A good example might be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: By the time TMNT hit the scene in 1984, we had already seen the overworked, and overdone Super Hero, groups of 4 cool dudes like the Beatles, radioactivity and pollution causing mutants, karate movies, funny animal cartoons, and the list goes on, but roll it all up into one, ya kinda got something new. Another example is guys would roll up their pants cuffs on their jeans out of practicality in the 1950’s for a couple of reasons: To keep them from getting caught in their motorcycle, and bicycle chains, and as they grew, instead of having to buy new jeans, they could unroll them to fit, so it became “The Fashion”. In the 1980’s however, guys TIGHTLY rolled their jeans for no real reason other than for fashionable purposes. Nothing new, just with a bizarre useless twist on a previous fashion practicality… thus… “Retro”.

Mid-Century Modern (MCM): Refers to a style and design (Usually furniture and housewares) popular from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, and HEAVILY influenced by Danish and Scandinavian designers.

Kitsch: A looser term based in opinion, typically refers to art, but also style, fashion, design, and fads that are in poor taste, gaudy, or garish, yet ironically cool and fashionable such as a crushed velvet tapestry of dogs playing poker, tattoo’s, Moon Boot’s, Man Bun’s, etc.


#1) Just because something is from, or was made durning a certain era, like the Art Deco Era for example, DOES NOT mean it is Art Deco. Those designations refer ONLY to how they look in design and style, yet MAY also refer to the actual era when the design style was first introduced and popular. Something can be made today, and for example have a “Victorian” design style. However, one can say, “This mantle clock is an authentic Art Deco period piece…”. In this case it must look Art Deco in its design, as well as actually made during the mid 1920’ to the 1940’s. That said, YES, something can be Mid Century Victorian for example.

#2) If you are ever unsure of ANY particular designation, but are certain something is from a particular decade, or even an exact date,  it’s never a bad thing, even recommended to skip the above designations if you are unsure, and to just cite the decade or date an item is from. For example, “I remember seeing this vase on my grandmothers shelf back in the 1950’s.” In this case, the vase may actually be from the 1920’s, but gives the buyer an idea of it’s age, provenance, and authenticity.

#3) Don’t pretend to know, or worse yet LIE. Genuineness and honesty build repeat customers in a hurry, whereas fakers and liars fool a few people dumber than you in the short term, but give you a long lasting, and near impossible to shake negative reputation in the long term.

#4) If you will notice in all of the above designations, the 1970’s are not represented, and the 1960’s we’ve clumped in with “Mid Century”. This was a tumultuous era of war, social change, protests. Though many things were invented, made, and conceptualized in the 70’s, such as Bell Bottoms and Disco, people tend to clump those items in with Mid Century, Vintage, Retro, and Kitsch. In our opinion, the most correct term would be Vintage, with the 1960’s and 1970’s as the beginning of the Vintage era. Some may refer to this era as the “Vietnam Era”, but that would only be appropriate if one is dealing directly with military type items from the time.

#5) If you recall my “(<—- Kinda pushin’ it)” personal note on the Mid Century designation…. well technically, Mid Century is from 1940 -1960. The reason we feel that items can be designated “Mid Century” all the way to 1969, is the continued popularity of the “Mid Century Modern” design style which actually lasted until the early 1970’s. Most people tend to agree that items from all of the 1960’s can be designated “Mid Century” (NOT Mid Century Modern unless it has that look), though the term would NOT be technically correct. That said Vintage would also be correct when referring to items from 1961-1999.

Then lastly, there are many niche, and nuanced eras, designs, and styles in between all of these, such as, Steampunk, Civil War, Hippie, Euro Trash, Brutalist, Goth, etc.. The list above is simply a list of the most popular, and the most misused. As you research and get to know terms, you will discover many more appropriate terms of eras, styles, and designs that will add nicely to your titles and descriptions, pushing MORE traffic to your items, resulting in higher sales. The key is to research, learn, and DON’T pretend! We are fast approaching, if not already in the era where ONLY the Educated, Honest, and Humble are going to be able to find success.

Blessings on all of your selling endeavors.

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