Valentine’s Day Postcards

rachelThe origin of Valentine’s Day is not certain. Perhaps it was born out of the Roman festival Lupercalia which was celebrated each year in the middle of February. The festival was a time of match-making and fertility; there was also violence toward women. The holiday’s name comes from the two Christian martyrs – each with the surname Valentine – who were put to death on February 14 by the Roman Emperor Claudius II. The executions occurred during different years in the third century of the Common Era. The Catholic Church created the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day on February 14 in order to recognize these saints. Such violent beginnings are difficult to reconcile with the modern holiday.

TER Valentine 1 02112013The romanticism of the day and our tradition of giving cards began in the Middle Ages. Of course all the cards were handmade at that time; mass production of Valentines began in the 19th century following the Industrial Revolution. According to the Hallmark website, its company “first offered Valentine’s Day cards in 1913 and began producing them in 1916.” The second edition of Vintage Postcards for the Holidays suggests that the tradition of giving Valentine cards made way for sharing cards at Christmas and other holidays. Even after Valentines were mass produced they were expensive to mail. When Valentine postcards burst onto the scene in the early 1900s, suddenly everymen and women had access to an inexpensive and beautiful way to send love to all the special people in their lives. Postage was one cent for most of these postcards. The Golden Age of Postcards – as it’s often called – waned by 1920, but during the two decades of popularity hundreds of examples of Valentine postcards were produced.

Valentine postcards portray a variety of sentiments and subjects. Some are comic; others are sweet; and still others have a hint of tragic love. Children, cupids, hearts, couples, flowers and landscapes are all common subjects. TER Valentine 2 02112013Cupid is the Roman god of erotic love, and postcards often portray him as a little cherub with a bow and arrow or as a child. Valentine postcards – in very good condition – signed by popular artists such as Ellen H. Clapsaddle and Mary Eleanor George or published by well know companies may realize higher prices than common ones. Some Valentine postcards have silk atop the paper, and others have homemade decorations that people added decades ago to personalize the printed card. Hold-to-Light Valentine postcards are less common. When held to a strong light, these postcards reveal more of the picture or message or highlight part of the picture. Typically these postcards are more valuable so long as the condition is very good. A variety of Valentine postcards are available online and in brick and mortar stores. Prices vary. Finding postcards that are unused and have not been mailed is not as difficult as one might think. Those looking for a unique Valentine surprise may want to browse vintage postcards. They can be mailed, framed, or delivered by hand to the sweetheart of choice. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Rachel Glenn is part owner of Rachel’s Attic Antiques and Collectibles in Dandridge, Tennessee and has been dealing in antiques and collectibles for twelve years and selling online for nine years.

Source: Rachel Glenn