Rather than being restricted to any formal definition of an antique being “at least a hundred years old” we will generally use the term on this site to refer to instruments that are at least somewhere in that vicinity. Other terms may be Vintage Pianos or Classic Pianos.
Depending on one’s perspective and interests the antique category can be further divided into areas that focus more on a particular aspect such as type, style or period (early pianos, those much older, are a special breed in which case we will identify them as such but otherwise we will use the term “antique” more generally).
For instance many of us love the old antique upright pianos for their nostalgia, looks and sound. It may be hard to find a similar wood or design in a contemporary instrument. Even if you find something close, it isn’t quite the same thing and we know it. Those old pianos even have a certain smell (although that could be good or bad).
Square grands hold a special interest for some. These are essentially a forerunner to the modern grand piano and although possessing some pleasing attributes they are hard pressed to compare to a modern piano in playability or sound. Nonetheless they do have their own peculiar charm.
As with anything in culture, whether cars, fashion or haircuts, older pianos can be recognized by the time period in which they were produced. Many of us like antique pianos so much because of their look. A gorgeous inlaid rosewood front board or carved tiger oak cabinet can be captivating. But if that’s your interest, you will be looking at instruments built pretty much prior to 1920.
In addition to furniture style, the time period will naturally determine certain aspects of the piano from a technical standpoint. Obviously newer innovations will not be found in earlier instruments. So it can be instructing, even fascinating, to compare pianos from different periods to learn more about their differences.