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What makes glasses truly vintage?

The term “vintage" now tends to be used almost everywhere. Especially in the world of fashion, and in particular when it comes to eyewear. But what does the term “vintage” really mean when it’s applied to a pair of glasses?

Vintage 70s sunglasses
Was machte eine Vintage Brille aus?

There are in fact very different definitions for this. We have already explained one aspect – the difference between “vintage” and “retro” – in great detail.

But if we’re talking about original glasses, and only these can become vintage glasses, there are a number of statements that we would like to examine more closely here:

An old pair of glasses is also a vintage pair of glasses.

Incorrect.  Only very few old glasses are also vintage glasses because the attribute “vintage” is not explained by age alone.

Many old glasses were not sold over the course of decades and sat on the shelves for many years. There are many reasons for this, including boring shapes, unpopular sizes and colors, and a lack of quality.

These old leftover glasses are anything but vintage glasses. Instead, they are simply old, worthless glasses, as there is no longer any demand for them.

Vintage Sunglasses
vintage twenties

Vintage glasses are at least several decades old.

Well-known vintage glasses are often from the 80s or 90s – or even older. 

One classic example of this is the “Neostyle Nautic 2” from the 70s. These famous "Elvis glasses" have steadily gained in popularity over the decades and are now one of the most popular vintage glasses.

Jacques Marie Mage

However, this criterion cannot be applied universally, because there are also vintage glasses that are only a few years old.

The best examples of this are the glasses and sunglasses from Jacques Marie Mage. Jacques Marie Mage manages to create emotions, memories, and a certain attitude toward life with his eyewear collection, as he links each of his models to a story. Each model is also strictly limited, which creates an artificial shortage.

As a result, demand outstrips availability and the value of the glasses increases – just like a pair of sought-after glasses from the 80s or 90s.

Vintage glasses are therefore not defined by age alone, but by demand and value retention.

Jacques Marie Mage

A vintage pair of glasses is also always a second-hand pair of glasses.

If a pair of glasses meets certain requirements and has earned the label “vintage,” its condition no longer matters.

We specialize in unworn vintage glasses. However, there is of course also a market for vintage models that have already been worn, especially if they are very rare glasses.

Still, it is wrong to say that vintage glasses are always second-hand glasses, and our extensive vintage eyewear range proves that this is not the case.

Some old models of glasses are so popular that we can only meet the demand for them if we also offer previously worn models. For us, however, “second hand” means “as new,” because we professionally refurbish the old vintage models and only use original parts when doing so. Non-experts often don’t realize that such a model has previously been worn and enjoyed by another person.

The difference only becomes apparent when you look at the price.

For example, a pair of second-hand Cartier Vendome Santos sunglasses in mint condition is priced at Euro 899 - like this pair. A completely unworn pair costs almost twice as much. Because you can hardly see the difference, many of our customers actually prefer the cheaper model.

Old glasses are always better quality than new ones.

It’s often the case that eyewear earns “vintage status” by virtue of its outstanding quality.

The tremendous manufacturing quality of certain glasses from the 60s to the 90s have always kept demand stable and underpinned the “vintage status.”

In general, it can be said that the majority of old vintage glasses are of much better quality than modern glasses. Back in the day, glasses were made to last a lifetime. The focus was on careful craftsmanship in manufacturing facilities. These facilities were located in countries with high quality standards – i.e. in Europe, the U.S, or Japan.

One example of the outstanding craftsmanship of the 80s is the Alpina M1 model.

With this model, designers, engineers, and manufacturers racked their brains on how to combine form and functionality in such a way that the wearer will enjoy their glasses and derive maximum benefit from them for decades. This model combines fashion, visual appearance, and craftsmanship in the purest form and naturally bears the label “Made in West Germany.”

To be fair, however, it must also be mentioned that even today there are (mostly smaller) eyewear manufacturers whose quality standards are extremely high.

Production processes and manufacturing techniques have improved and there are in fact manufacturers who strive to achieve the style and quality of vintage models.

Titanium frames from Jacques Marie Mage offer an example of top quality in the present day. These frames are produced in Japan and their manufacturing quality matches that of the old vintage rarities.

Modern-day producers benefit here from the fact that they can take their cue from past quality benchmarks. In addition, it will take 10 to 20 years to see whether these models are as good as their predecessors, because it is only when a pair of glasses has been worn for years that one begins to recognize their true quality.

80s and 90s vintage glasses are very stable in price and are steadily increasing in value.

Unfortunately, this statement also cannot be generalized without qualification. As was already mentioned, vintage glasses are defined in particular by their low level of availability.

In the recent past, eyewear manufacturers have begun reproducing old vintage eyewear models.

As a result, the market is flooded with “replicas.” 

This sudden oversupply leads to a situation in which vintage design glasses are available everywhere – the original design thus loses its uniqueness. 

Fortunately, there are still enough connoisseurs and lovers of the old original products to keep the value of the old rarities high. A good example of this is the Cazal brand because despite the numerous Cazal reproductions out there, the old 80s Cazals are still very popular and correspondingly valuable.

Original Vintage Cazal 869, hergestellt 1989

Original Cazal 869 from the 80s

Old Cazal classics

Vintage glasses are always more expensive than glasses from current eyewear collections.

This is sometimes the case and sometimes not. 

Obviously, old unworn Ray-Ban sunglasses from Bausch + Lomb in the U.S. are more expensive than new Italian Ray-Ban glasses from Luxottica. The difference is explained by the quality of the old U.S. Ray-Bans and the legend that surrounds them.

Contrast this with the luxury eyewear from Cartier: Here, there is no difference in price between vintage Cartier glasses and Cartier sunglasses from the latest collection. On the contrary, the new Cartier glasses are actually often much more expensive, which can be explained by the luxury brand’s marketing.

Retro glasses are based on vintage glasses.

Correct. Retro glasses are a reproduction of vintage glasses.

Sometimes the vintage glasses are copied wholesale and sometimes small changes are made – for example with regard to the material, size, color, or name. As a rule, the reproductions fall very far short of the quality standards of the old originals.

There are exceptions here, however, such as the Elvis sunglasses from Neostyle. This reproduction is from the same manufacturer and is so well made that we decided to include it in our vintage range.

Don Johnson mit der 80er Vintagebrille Carrera 5512

Carrera 5512

Don Johnson

Series "Miami Vice", 1984

Only celebrity glasses can be a vintage pair of glasses.

The influence of musicians and actors on the vintage market is indeed enormous.

Just as with songs or movies, many people associate vintage glasses with an attitude toward life, their own memories, or a very specific time. 

When you see Don Johnson’s vintage Carrera 5512 sunglasses, the first thing that comes to mind is certainly not their craftsmanship, but the 80s lifestyle of Miami Vice. This instantly conjures up an image of a pastel linen suit, a white Ferrari, and Ocean Drive. The emotions involved are personal and priceless.

However, there are also many old glasses that have managed to become vintage without celebrity influence or endorsement. The timeless metal glasses from Lunor are worth mentioning here. Their stylish understatement makes the old Lunor glasses timeless vintage classics.

Are true vintage glasses different from vintage glasses?

Yes, unfortunately. In recent years, the term “vintage” has been increasingly misused, diluting the original definition.

Countless designers and eyewear manufacturers advertise their current collections as vintage, as the term “vintage” is often associated with something special. This is just pure marketing designed to increase sales; it has nothing to do with real vintage glasses. The glasses marketed in this way are simply retro glasses.

Such misleading advertising campaigns have helped the term “vintage” become mainstream and fostered the belief that a copy or reproduction is equal to an original.

For this reason, real connoisseurs and professionals have begun to label truly vintage glasses “true vintage.” In other words, true vintage glasses are truly old vintage glasses.

Unfortunately, however, this will only be the case until the term “true vintage” itself is instrumentalized for marketing purposes.

Can a pair of glasses also lose their “vintage status?”

Since the label “vintage” is not an official title, you cannot officially lose it. 

Moreover, the term “vintage” is also very much defined by personal views. However, the truth is that vintage glasses can lose a lot of value.

It’s often the case that celebrities wear sunglasses for a very specific occasion and thus trigger a real hype. Overnight, a regular old pair of glasses becomes a much sought-after vintage pair. The price explodes with the demand. However, the hype and the associated demand often end just as quickly as they began – and so the price drops.

Many of the sunglasses worn by Lady Gaga are a good example of this because in the very next show she ends up wearing another pair of sunglasses, which pushes the previous one into the background.

When Lady Gaga wore the Paloma Picasso model 3729 in 2011, the price rose to over Euro 1,000 overnight. We received inquiries about it from all over the world.  Only a short time later, interest had cooled down again considerably. We sold our last pair of Picasso 3729 sunglasses for Euro 399:


What makes a pair of glasses true vintage glasses?

From our point of view, there are many characteristics that set vintage glasses apart. However, it all starts with demand, which in turn is generated for different reasons:

vintage nineties

1. Uniqueness of the glasses 

which is often due to the design or quality.

2. Vintage glasses create emotions 

and thus generate a strong desire among people to wear these glasses themselves.

3. Vintage glasses are original glasses

whose availability is limited and – especially in unworn condition – continues to decline.

4. The emotional value of vintage glasses is often country-specific

A pair of small round 80s glasses from Algha might be considered old, hard-to-sell glasses in Germany. In Japan, on the other hand, the small Algha glasses are in great demand, making them highly sought-after vintage eyewear. So vintage is frequently also a question of location.

5. Each pair of vintage glasses also has historical significance

because the attitude toward life that vintage glasses convey is authentic.

In conclusion, it should be said that every pair of glasses must earn the title “vintage.” The spirit of the times and the vintage market are constantly changing. Since we became the leading supplier of vintage eyewear 20 years ago and deal with a wide variety of designer eyewear on a daily basis, we are well able to assess developments. Accordingly, new vintage glasses are always enriching our range – and hopefully for the next 20 years as well.

An example of this is the crazy pair of glasses from Theo Belgium. We only recently added this brand of glasses to our vintage range and have been pleasantly surprised by the positive response it’s generated.
We are particularly pleased by the high proportion of female Theo lovers, as male customers account for the lion’s share of customers for many other vintage eyewear brands.

If you’re interested in knowing which vintage eyewear is currently in great demand, just take a look at our new acquisitions from the last 14 days:

Vintage Raritäten – jetzt bei uns im Shop!

As regards the availability of these true vintage glasses: We can only offer one pair of most of them at the moment!

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