Late 1800s and Early 1900s
by Miriam Randazzo
Valentine's Day greetings have been exchanged for hundreds of years, beginning as hand written notes and gradually giving way to printed cards, during the early 1800s. By the mid 1800s, Valentine's Day cards were mass produced and exchanged in much greater numbers. Some of the prettiest antique, Valentine's Day cards date to the Victorian Era, are die cut and made in Germany.
Three dimensional Valentine's Day cards from the Victorian Era were quite popular for their beautiful colors and design detail. The cardboard die cut designs opened from a flat greeting to a three dimensional shape, like the one shown to the left. Some of the Valentine's Day cards combined cardboard with tissue paper. It is the three dimensional cards that remain most popular among collectors today.
Not all Victorian Valentine's Day cards were three dimensional, some were simpler flat cards, like the German dog example shown to the right. This example is also die cut.
Another popular style of Valentine's Day greetings was the postcard. Postcards were sent in mass quantities during the late 1800s and early 1900s and can still be found in abundance at most antique shows and shops. Richly adorned with embossed roses, cherubs, doves, hearts and arrows, these cards epitomize romance.
Although the message wasn't private, postcards did have the advantage of being less expensive to purchase and to mail.
The most popular Valentine's Day postcards include those made in Germany and those that are artist signed. Many collectors decorate their homes for the holiday with these pretty antique postcards. They are simply works of art.
As the Victorian Era ended, the style of Valentine's Day cards became simpler, but remained aesthetically pleasing, even by contemporary standards.
As the 1920s approached, mechanical cards surged in popularity. Notice how the young girl's eyes move and the swing moves back and forth on the card below.
For a period of time during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the value of antique Valentine's increased dramatically, due to an increased demand and limited local availability. With the introduction of the online market place, availability increased and prices dropped significantly. Lucky for today's collectors, antique Valentine's Day cards can be readily found and for a reasonable price.
If you decide to collect antique Valentine's Day cards, recognize their fragile nature and always ask a dealer for permission to open a card or work a mechanical card. Inspect cards for tiny tears, spotting and paper break down.