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My Tips for Collecting and Displaying Vintage Valentines
I Love Old Valentines
It's easy to start collecting old valentines. There is a huge variety of antique and more recent valentines available for the collector. The photo on the left shows some of my collection.
If you have an affinity for vintage bits and pieces of paper, are drawn to colorful lithographs and antique advertising pieces, think about collecting valentines. Old valentines contain all the color, delightful art, history and entertaining verses that one could possibly want. Who can resist:
"Forget-me-not sweet Valentine,
My hand and heart are ever thine."
Here are ways to develop a vintage valentine collection without going broke.
Image available from Zazzle:Little Girl with Hearts by artistjillian
Get Started Collecting Valentines
Most antique shops have a stash of them. Possibly they are under the counter or in a shoe box or a photo album. Search for the colorful cards at estate sales and flea markets too.
To start your collection inexpensively, ask older family members if they save cards and letters. Chances are some valentines are sprinkled in with other memorabilia tucked away in a box or drawer. They may be willing to part with the ones lacking major sentimental ties.
Here are places that people found valentines.
- SheGetsCreative - "I have a few that are pre-1910 that I treasure. Bought 'em at a yard sale for 10 cents each along with a huge box of antique postcards. I was hooked from then on!"
- A friend from Kansas says, "They do make a very interesting collectible. I bought a book once at an auction, that had been tied with string that appeared to be decades old. Inside the book was a stampless cover, and inside the cover was a very old valentine from some time in the 1800s. Still have it."
MartieG commented, "Love these old Valentines - I have one from the early 1900's that my great uncle wrote to his mother and it is really amazing."
How Long Have You Collected Valentines
Vote in the Poll
A Reminder - Why You Collect Valentines
- Reasons to Collect Those Adorable Vintage Antique Va...
I was delighted to find another Valentine collector with a page on Hubpages. Take a look at her collection.
My Valentine Collection
Video Slideshow of Vintage Valentine Postcards
Here's Another Valentine Collector with Advice for You
- Collecting Vintage Valentines & Postcards
I have an extensive valentine collection from the 30s & 40's. On this page I offer some information regarding collecting and maintaining your vintage valentine collections.
Another Source for Vintage Valentines
Contact retired school teachers and offer to buy their accumulation. A teacher probably receives thousands of valentines over the years.
A Collector's Guide Covering the 1700s to the 1950s
336 pages so you'll find lots of photos of valentines and prices for them. As with any antiques price guide, check the date and mentally adjust the prices for market trends up or down over the past years.
Different Types of Valentines to Collect
Antique Lacy Valentines
Choosing a Category to Specialize in
Lacy Valentines, honeycomb Valentines, or even Insult Valentines
You may find yourself drawn to certain categories of valentines such as the ones with moveable parts, ones with honeycombs that open, or the distinctive art of Ernest Nister (printed in Bavaria) cards. Some collectors focus on certain periods (1930s or 1940s) or humorous insult valentines. Others like valentine postcards or search out a specific design like cherubs or swans.
After awhile you may develop an expensive taste for lacy cards from the 1800s. Once you find a category to specialize in, keep the focus on those to develop a finer collection.
(photo of my own collection of valentines)
An Example of a Mechanical Valentine
There's Even a Category of Valentines Called Black Americana - See Examples of These on eBay
Be aware that some of these show racist stereotypes of bygone days, but they make an interesting collectible. Some people collect them as a historical representation of attitudes in earlier eras. Others just look for cute ones.
Example of a Black Americana Valentine from My Collection
Vintage Black Americana Valentines
- Vintage Valentine Museum: Black Americana Valentine Cards
These often reflected attitudes of the day that would not be popular nor even deemed acceptable now. Take a look at the samples shown on this page.
Read More about Politically Incorrect Valentines
- Sexist, Suggestive and Politically Incorrect Vintag...
Vintage valentines are cute but are also filled with sexism, racism, veiled violence and some downright odd sexual innuendo
Vinegar Valentines Span Many Years
- Happy Valentine's Day, I Hate You | Article by Collectors Weekly
Don't like someone? There used to be insulting valentines for this situation. As far back as the 1840s until the 1940s, they could send a Vinegar Valentine. Check out the examples on this page.
Here's an Example of These
Usually, you think of valentines as sweet and lovely, but there's a special type called Insult Valentines or Vinegar Valentines. I collect valentines and many years ago found a whole album of these.
Above is an example of these. It's printed on really cheap paper and probably dates from the late 1920s or the 1930s.
The Kovels newsletter advised against collecting these as an investment, "Avoid the inexpensive single sheet 'penny dreadfuls.' They are insulting comic valentines from the 1920—very inexpensive but hard to sell."
It appears that you give these to people you don't like, rather than to your sweetie. This example says, "TIN HORN SPORT - A dime is the limit when you've got a date, after the big talk with which you fill 'er, you've dough in your socks, but you low darn heel, you're just as cheap as that ten cent thriller. "
Even in the 1920s, a movie cost about a quarter, so the 10 cent thriller mentioned in this vinegar valentine must have been the cheap afternoon rerun.
These were usually given anonymously and targeted the faults and failings of the recipient.
Specialty Valentines - Masonic
- Some Antique Masonic Valentines and PostCards
This is one of those art forms from the past that really fascinates me. But, truthfully, I had no idea on how to approach the subject in a post. Because, for one thing, - they can't really be categorized strictly as Valentines Day cards.... ...
Example of Valentines for the Military in World War II
Card available from Zazzle: Retro US Military Valentine's Day Card by golden_oldies.
The artwork on this card leaves no doubt what era it was distributed in, the 1940s.
Some Collectors Focus on Early Valentine Postcards
Vintage Valentine Postcards - Enjoy this short video on YouTube that shows many old valentines.
Taking Care of Your Valentine Collection
Archival Quality Storage for the Vintage Valentine Collector
Don't store your valentines in an old cardboard shoebox. Get an archival quality box that won't interact in a negative way with the old paper or cardboard in the valentines.
Put the box in a climate controlled area. This means don't keep it in the attic, the garage or the basement. Those areas tend to be too hot or too damp or too cold. The temperature fluctuations can make the glue let go and pieces may fall apart. Dampness encourages mold to form on paper.
Protective Sleeves for Your Best Valentines
Look for the words "archival" when preparing your valentine collection for storage.
To treat your valentines right, store them in acid free containers. These are more widely available now with the popularity of scrap booking. Look for the words, "acid free" or "archival quality" on the labels. Don't store them in a hot attic or garage or a damp basement. Besides the temperature issues, those areas might harbor silverfish that love to feast on old paper. They nibble little trails through your precious collection.
Archival Storage Box
How fitting, a red box to store the valentines in. It's better to have several boxes so you don't crowd the valentines. Don't squash the delicate ones by stacking others on top of them. Don't let the lacy ones get tangled together.
You can put a layer of archival quality tissue paper between each valentine to protect it. Put the box where there is climate control so it isn't affected by extremes of heat or cold or humidity.
Show Off Your Valentine Collection
Make Displays of Your Valentines
Every February it is a treat to bring out the valentines and savor once again their unique designs. Share your collection with others by displaying them at a local museum or library. Avoid display areas near a window. Direct sunlight will fade and even warp the paper and cardboard pieces. Sometimes an individual viewing the display will offer to give you valentines they have saved.
I use clear plastic photo stands to display some and lay others down. Make sure the more fragile ones are positioned so they are not stressed by gravity.
Clear Display Stands for Displaying Antique Valentines
Be sure to place very fragile valentines in a way that there is no stress on the lace or the movable parts.
Display Stand to Hold a Valentine Upright
This display stand holds an antique valentine at a slight slant so it displays well.
Trading Up or Selling Your Valentines
Think about making your collection pay for itself. Trade or sell some of the items you are less attached to raise funds to indulge in top level cards.
By joining the national association, you get an informative newsletter and the opportunity to participate in their quarterly valentine auctions. Some years back I used their auction to sell a scrapbook of vinegar valentines. My taste was more for the cute or lacy ones, so I decided not to keep the scrapbook. It sold in the auction for $200.
National Valentine Collectors' Association
P.O. Box 647
Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417
Valentines can be sold on eBay or Etsy. I suggest putting them in groups by type.
Their webpage includes the results from their quarterly auctions plus a sample newsletter (7 pages) for you to read.
How Old Is This Valentine?
Here are dated cards from my collection. Look at the styles and match yours to one of these.
You can also look in books of Valentine history to help date items in your collection.
This One Is Dated on the Back - February 14, 1886
The Back of the Old Valentine
Lacy Valentine Art from the 1800s
This is the oldest valentine in my collection. On the back, in old-style handwriting is the date 1886. It's typical of the taste for that time, the Victorian era.
What was happening in 1886, the year that this Valentine was presented to someone's sweetheart? Grover Cleveland was president. Coca-Cola was invented. Geronimo surrendered in Arizona to end the Indian Wars. This time was also called the Gilded Age.
This Valentine features elaborate floral designs, includes embossing, a number of layers with small tabs to raise them up, lots of gold, and a fancy sawtooth edge. I hope the romance prospered after this token of affection was given.
A 1910 Card
A 1928 Card
One Hundred Years of Valentines
Not just a book of pretty pictures, this contains lots of information for the serious collector. This gives you guidelines on dating and placing a dollar value on your collectibles.
© 2009 Virginia Allain