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Collecting vintage valentines

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collecting vintage valentines
Why collect vintage valentines? The exchange of greeting cards called "valentines" began in the Victorian Era when the mass production of valentines began in the mid 1800s. It continues to the present day. Prior to that time, handwritten notes were sent for Valentine's Day to nearby relatives, friends, and sweethearts. The long time span of the mass-produced valentine gives collectors an overwhelming variety of designs and styles from which to choose.

Whether you prefer lace-trimmed Victorian cards or pink-cheeked kewpies, there's a valentine for every collector! Some collectors even specialize in a particular style of valentine to match their decor, say, nautical, hula girls, or anthropomorphic food items.

Get started collecting vintage valentines

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.

Most antique shops have a stash of them under the counter, in a shoe box, or a photo album. Search for the colourful 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 tucked in with the other memorabilia in a box or drawer. They may be willing to part with the ones lacking major sentimental ties.

Another good source of vintage valentines are retired teachers. Contact retired school teachers with an offer to buy their accumulation of valentines. A teacher receives thousands of valentines over the years.

Trading up your collection

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 best-quality cards instead of slightly tatty cards with a lot of wear and tear.

Specialize in a category of vintage valentine

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 funny insult valentines. Others like valentine postcards or search out a specific design like cherubs or swans. After awhile you may end up develop an expensive taste for lacy cards from the 1800s.

Once you find a category in which to specialize, keep the focus on those specific styles to develop a better collection.

Storage and care of vintage valentines

To treat your valentines properly, store them in acid free containers. These are more widely available now with the popularity of scrapbooking. Look for the words "acid free" or "archival quality" on the labels.

Warning: Don't store vintage valentines (or any paper ephemera) in a hot attic or garage or a damp basement. In addition to the temperature control issues, those areas might harbor silverfish that love to feast on old paper. They will nibble little trails through your precious collection.

Display your vintage 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. Make sure the more fragile ones are positioned so they are not stressed by gravity.

Sometimes a person viewing the display will offer to give you valentines they have saved. This is an excellent way to add to your collection.

Warning: Avoid display areas near a window as direct sunlight will fade and even warp the paper and cardboard pieces.

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