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There's so much to love about vintage and antique valentines cards - surprisingly valuable too!!!

Vintage Valentine's Day cards are so cute. I came across several going through my mother in law’s estate that belonged to my husband, Jimmy. It made me nostalgic and I remembered the cute cards I swapped in elementary school. Wanting to share the found Valentines Day Cards in my etsy shop I needed to do some research. What I learned was that since the mid-19th century, people have exchanged greeting cards in celebration of Valentine's Day. Surprisingly many of these cards still exist. To my surprise they were different styles, and they can also be surprisingly valuable! I have listed in my blog here several that are available in our Etsy shop. Few of them have sold already.

Each era had its own themes and styles, and collectors often choose to focus their efforts on one particular time period or motif.

Understanding the hallmarks of various eras can help you choose a specific type of card to collect or figure out how old your valentine card is.

It was in 1850 that the custom of exchanging valentines truly took off. A woman named Esther Howland began a very successful business producing Valentine's Day cards. People in England and the United States also made cards to give to their sweethearts.

Here is the breakdown of themes and styles in greeting cards from times before:

Early Victorian Valentines: 1850 to 1880

  • Greetings with die-cut paper lace and fabric lace

  • Pieces of silk fabric and ribbon on cards

  • Valentines with flowers and leaves made of silk or paper

  • Cards with hand-painted designs

  • Single-sided cards

  • Cards with flaps that could be lifted

Later Victorian Valentines: 1880s Through 1900

During this period, valentines became easier to mass produce. Lithographed cards were all the rage during this period. The cards were comparatively inexpensive, and there are more of these cards in existence. Cards from the late-Victorian era often feature these motifs and materials:

  • Color lithography printing on cards

  • Postcards and cards that could be opened

  • Fan-shaped greetings

  • Cards with hearts, birds, cherubs, and flowers

  • Pop-up cards with honeycomb paper inside

Early 20th Century Valentines: 1900s Through the 1930s

This era saw a departure from the traditional rectangular or fan-shaped card. Valentine art became more detailed and varied, resulting in some surprising and fun themes and styles:

  • Printed cards in the shape of children, animals, and objects

  • Cards featuring modern inventions, such as radios, telephones, and airplanes

  • Valentines printed with movie stars from the era, such as Jean Harlow

  • Greetings with timely themes like women's voting rights, World War I, and changing fashions

  • Cards with clever puns on common words

  • Fewer greetings featuring dimensional elements like pop-ups

Mid-20th Century Valentines: 1940s Through the 1960s

In the mid-20th century, there was a surge in valentines featuring cars and other vehicles. In addition, you can expect to see some of the following elements in Valentine's Day greetings from this era:

  • Cards featuring references to World War II, Nazis, dictators, and other war-related themes

  • Valentines with space travel images

  • Cards referencing separation from a loved one

  • Full-color greetings with animals and children

  • Mechanical cards that moved when you pulled or pushed on a part

  • Cards from noted manufacturers like Hallmark and American Greetings

There you have it. Hope this information helps you identify from which period that cute valentines day card you own is. The ones we have in our shop are mid century, the last group identified. Precious.

Whether you are creating a large collection or simply want to enjoy one or two of these unique greeting cards, there's plenty to love about Valentine's Day cards from years past. Many available in our My40YearCollection and other Etsy shops.

Thanks for reading, feel free to reach out and ask any questions!

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