18 Things That Were Once a Status Symbol But Aren’t Anymore

The technology of times gone by and fashion items that once signified your wealth and status within society have largely been replaced with modern ways of thinking and digital innovation. Here are 18 items that used to be a symbol of luxury but have lost their status within society.

Landline Telephones

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Once a symbol of connectivity, having a landline meant being reachable and indicated a person’s connections, and they soon became commonplace in homes across America. Elon University says, “By 1900, there were nearly 600,000 phones in Bell’s telephone system; that number shot up to 2.2 million phones by 1905, and 5.8 million by 1910.”

Black-and-White Television Sets

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After their invention, owning a black-and-white TV set was a luxury that symbolized modern living and entertainment at home. The widespread availability of color TV marked the beginning of the end for black-and-white TV, and it’s now often seen as nostalgic.

Encyclopedia Sets

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Before at-home computers and the internet, there were large sets of encyclopedias. They were considered a prestigious asset in a home, and indicated the family’s commitment to knowledge and education. Nowadays, encyclopedias often serve as nostalgic items, displayed for a vintage aesthetic and a link to the past.

Fax Machines

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Pivotal in business communications in the 1980s and 1990s, fax machines symbolized a company’s efficiency and connectivity. A 1988 New York Times article noted, “The machines, which are about the size of a portable typewriter and now cost as little as $800, appear to be altering the way many people conduct business.”


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Essential tools for offices and writers, typewriters symbolized professionalism and literary culture. In modern society, the convenience and efficiency of computers and digital word processors have largely replaced typewriters, but they have gained somewhat of a second life as vintage collectibles.

VCRs and Video Cassettes

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VCRs revolutionized home entertainment and allowed people to watch movies or record TV shows, a luxury at the time. These were replaced with DVD players, and then again with the advent of streaming services, but are still considered a piece of nostalgia.

Film Cameras

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Film cameras were the prize possessions of professional photographers as well as photography enthusiasts, known for their quality and the skill required to use them. Overshadowed by digital photography for the most part, film photography remains a respected art form to this day.


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Used by professionals in the mid-1970s, pagers allowed people to send instant messages while on the move. According to the Science Museum, “The heyday of the pager was the 1980s, but in the following decade, the arrival of the mobile phone made them obsolete.”

Gas-Guzzling Cars

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Once a sign of success and status, owning a large, powerful car was associated with luxury, power, and freedom. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in environmental awareness, which has led to a preference for fuel-efficient and electric vehicles as people value sustainability and innovation.

Physical Maps and Atlases

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Before GPS and Google Maps, having a collection of maps or atlases indicated a worldly and adventurous spirit, often associated with education and sophistication. Today, digital maps offer more convenience and ensure up-to-date representations of the world, but physical maps are still appreciated for their aesthetic in the home.

Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Monitors

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Representing the cutting-edge technology of the 20th century, CRT monitors were once the standard in computing and gaming at home. While some vintage tech enthusiasts and retro gamers still value CRTs, there has been a general shift toward slimmer, more energy-efficient LCD and LED monitors.


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Portable music players were once the cutting-edge of technology and were a symbol of a modern, youthful lifestyle. According to The Verge, despite slow initial sales, the “Walkman went on to become one of Sony’s most successful brands of all time, transitioning formats over the years into CD, Mini-Disc, MP3, and finally, streaming music.”

Fur Coats

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Worn as a display of wealth and status, fur coats were once the epitome of luxury fashion. However, growing ethical concerns around animal rights have led to a lot of brands abandoning the use of fur for high-quality synthetic alternatives.

China Dish Sets

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Indicating a household’s sophistication and attention to detail, fine china was the cornerstone of formal dining and entertaining. In modern society, this fine china is sometimes used on special occasions, but in general, a shift toward casual eating habits and minimalism in the home has led to a reduction in its popularity.

Cigar Smoking

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Often associated with power, masculinity, and leisure, cigars were seen in the hands of influential and affluent individuals and formed a part of social entertainment. Since the 1960s, public health campaigns and smoking regulations have altered the perception of cigar smoking, making it more of a health risk than a luxury.

Ivory Products

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Highly valued for its beauty and rarity, ivory was often used in art, jewelry, and décor and symbolized wealth. The trade of ivory began to slow due to the declining population of African elephants, and Britannica says, “Poachers were largely responsible for the decimation of the African elephant species; indeed, in the 1980s alone, poachers virtually halved the African elephant population.”

Dial-up Internet

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Symbolizing tech-savviness and connection to an emerging digital world, having dial-up access to the internet at home was considered a luxury during the early days of the internet. Often a subject of nostalgia due to the iconic dial-up tone, it was eventually rendered obsolete by the high speeds of broadband and fiber-optic internet.

Answering Machines

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In a pre-mobile phone era, having an answering machine was a sign of connectivity and availability, ensuring that no important calls were missed. Another victim of digital evolution, answering machines have been largely replaced by the convenience of integrated voicemail services within mobile phones and landlines.

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