Feb 4, 2012

Collecting Vintage Valentines

I have a killer sweet tooth. I mean that. Its really, really bad-always has been. I spent a lot of time at the dentist growing up. My dentist was about 275 years old. He had been my mom's dentist her whole life. He was tall and lanky, wore glasses, and was sweet as apple pie. I remember his office vividly (probably because I spent so much time there). He had 70's looking avocado green dental equipment and the walls were covered in wood paneling. There were windows you could look out but the chair usually faced a large cartoon style map of Minneapolis. Sometimes when I close my eyes I can still see that drawing. It was very detailed and interesting to look at, but by the 7th cavity fill of that quarter it got pretty boring. Luckily every February the whole office would transform. My dentist had a passion for collecting vintage Valentines and would cover the walls and doors with his collection. I loved that time of year. Sometimes he would even take Valentines down and let me hold them while he told me where he found them. A true collector, he was thrilled with the hunt. I always think of him whenever I see an old Valentine. 

Valentines Day falls on February 14th each year. It is a holiday in which lovers express said love for each other, traditionally with flowers, candle lit dinners, heart shaped things, chocolate and greeting cards. The first Valentines cards were hand written but over time have made way for more mass produced greetings. These cards, for the most part, depict images of hearts, cupids and love struck victims.

Early Valentines were much more elaborate. At the start of the 1800's, mechanical Valentines were in vogue. With a opening and closing or the pulling of a tab, the Valentines would come to life. These tended to be on the bigger side and would sometimes increase the cost of mailing. But boy were they interesting! 

By the 19th century sending valentines was such a popular thing to do, Valentines were being mass produced in factories. The postal rate had gone down which also spiked an interest in Valentine exchanging. The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that 190 million Valentines are sent each year. 

I've Got A Secret Valentine $6.00

If you are interested in collecting vintage Valentines the best starting place for resources would be The Ephemera Society of America. Through them you can been connected to a network of other Valentines collectors. You can sign up to receive their newsletter and you can learn about upcoming ephemera conventions. (Which BTW the Antiquarian Book And Paper Show is happening this weekend at the Concourse Center in SF-check it out if you are in the Bay Area). 
These titles are available on Amazon.com; "One Hundred Years of Valentines,"  or "Greetings With Love: The Book of Valentines." If it is prices or values you are interested in check out "Valentines With Values," or "Romantic Valentines: A Price Guide."

Want more? Check out the Vintage Valentine Museum, a blog with pages and pages of Valentines. The British Postal Museum has a collection online also! And did you know there is an app? Vintage Valentines for your IPhone for only $1.99.

All of the amazing Valentines you see here are available for purchase on Etsy. Thank you so much Etsy sellers for the use of your great images!

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