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Valentine Independence for Collectors

Valentines are fun to collect and display in February. Antique valentines can be quite elaborate and include mechanical features as well as ribbons, lace and wonderful craftsmanship. (Photos by Maureen Zambito)

I love antique Valentines. The artistic designs, the sweet sentiments expressed, even the scrolling handwriting, it’s all so romantic.

Our own West Virginia Independence Hall is having an appropriate and unique Valentine’s Day fundraiser that involves antique valentines. For $10 (cash or check only) you receive a small box of chocolates, a reproduction Victorian postcard or card, and a chance to rent an historic mailbox in this iconic setting.

I plan on taking advantage of this fun way to say I Love You and rent a few boxes for my grandchildren. You can find out more by calling WVIH at 304-238-1300.

Authentic Victorian valentines are always fun to display in February.

I own a few but have seen some really beautiful examples over the years at museums and antique shops.

I was surprised to find that postcards were prominent in the history of valentine sending too. Postcards are a good way to start this hobby since they are small (storage) and less expensive

Valentines belong to the category of antiques known as ephemera. Paper collectibles like valentines carry with them clues to our social past and that is another thing I like about them.

Handwriting skills, language changes and selection of images tell so much about people and a culture.

Valentines were highly popular during the Victorian time, but the oldest known valentine is a 1415 poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The poem now is housed in the British Library.

Printed valentines became popular during the 1800s. It was a time when people were discouraged from expressing their emotions and printed cards were a real social need.

Hallmark first offered Valentine’s Day cards in 1913 and began producing them in 1916, according to hallmark.com. Today you can purchase cards online as well as in a bricks-and-mortar store.

According to Schroeder’s Price Guide, Internet auctions have affected the prices of all valentines, both antique and retro. Some prices have gone down — others way up.

The most important qualities for placing a value on collectible valentines are the age, category, size, manufacturer, artist, signature, condition and location. Saving them properly is tough, since you have to keep them dry, cool and free of bugs and dirt.

Valentines can be classified as mechanical, honeycomb paper puff, dimensional and flat cards. Many are too beautiful to be thrown away, thus we have the examples with us to enjoy today.

Most cards are flat valentines but many have interesting features. For example, one in the column today includes a paper “crying towel,” asking that the recipient “Be My Valentine … I’m Crying for You.”

Get busy now and find yourself a few vintage examples of valentines. With the cost of new cards increasing so much lately — these old ones are actually a bargain! Happy Valentine’s Day!

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of the Sunday News-Register, 1500 Main St., Wheeling, WV 26003.

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