Archive for January, 2010

The Value of Byers’ Choice Carolers

posted by Karen Hood
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Byer’s Choice Carolers are lovely, unique collectibles that are well-known for their quality craftmanship, handmade vintage appeal, and irresistible charm. Every Caroler is created in the Byers’ Choice Pennsylvania workshop by the loving hands of a team of skilled artisans. Each of these unique characters are created using a variety of materials and techniques. Hundreds of different fabrics, ribbons, and laces are available to the artisans to be mixed in various combinations to create traditional and Victorian Carolers. By changing the posing, or adjusting the draping of the clothes, Byers’ Choice artisans breathe life and personality into each Caroler that capture the warmth and spirit of Christmas. As may be expected of such a unique and well-loved set of collectibles, retired Carolers can fetch a pretty penny when resold.

However, not all Carolers appreciate in value, so if you are looking to sell part of your collection it is wise to research the particular item(s) you intend to sell. Limited editions, autographed Carolers, and exclusive items are mostly likely to appreciate in value over time. Items that are particularly difficult to obtain, like the retired Nutcracker Ballet set, may also be more expensive. On eBay, the average Caroler can sell for anything between $10-70, with the low end representing smaller items like animals, children, and accessories. Limited editions, like the Mark Twain Historical Caroler, can sell for $12o and up.

The Byers’ Choice website is a good place to start your research. You can view a list of current limited editions along with a list of retailers who sell them here. These special pieces generally cost between $60 and $80 and are likely to be a good investment for the future. Another helpful resource is the list of retired Carolers on their site, here. This list will tell you when a piece was produced, and for how many years. Carolers that were produced for a single year are often valued for their rarity.

Collecting Valentines — The Language of Love Part Five

posted by Karen Hood
Saturday, January 16, 2010

by Nancy Rosin
Source: The Ephemera Society of America

Illustration 12.
Open-out Valentine, “Love in a Motor,”
by Raphael Tuck, printed in Germany, early 1900s.
Grill opens to reveal an image of a romantic couple
amid a bouquet of tissue-paper flowers.

The Enduring Love of a Collector

Collecting Valentines is, to me, far different from collecting any other item. Valentines and their related love ephemera touch the most basic emotional aspects of the relationships among people: they reveal qualities about the object, the sender, and the recipient, to which we can all relate. In my own collection, I never feel that I am amassing or compiling documents. But rather am creating a chronicle of actual people. These former owners acquire personalities I can envision; their artistic endeavors are both appreciated and savored.

A list of facts can only provide the most elemental aspects of a collection. The challenge, the search, and the acquisition are common to every collector; a deeper bond is an understanding of and a respect for the entire process. These are no mere “accumulations”, but scholarly, perhaps even anthropological or sociological, studies of people’s lives lived within a particular historical framework.

In my personal study, the manufacture of paper, and the development of the postal delivery systems, played key roles in my appreciation for the valentine missive. In my desire to form a comprehensive collection, I needed to become familiar with events in history: to link particular valentines to the Gold Rush, the Civil War, women’s suffrage, the building of the transcontinental railroad, etc. It also intrigued me to become more familiar with artists — to be able to spot the work of Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane, Norman Rockwell, or lesser known illustrators.

As with the collection of other historical documents, acquiring Valentines involves a moral obligation: the responsibility to safeguard and preserve them for posterity. If we can, we stop the process of deterioration of paper treasures. And we have the responsibility to keep these fragile relics of the past, and of past loves, in archival conditions. Although the very definition of ephemera refers to the transitory nature of objects that were not intended for permanence, it is encumbent upon us to now become custodians of these mementos.

For me, each Valentine possesses special qualities which make it “collectible”. The primitive, the humorous, or the elegant — each has a special charm. They were saved as souvenirs, passed down as heirlooms, and now are valued for their aesthetic and historic qualities. When I hold one in my hand, I can feel transported to another era — and can imagine a perpetual Valentine’s Day of love and regard.

To further assist collectors, I have created the video, The Valentine & Expressions of Love, Sirocco Productions, Norfolk, Virginia. I include images of the vast array of Valentine materials, and the knowledge gained from thirty years of collecting and research on the subject. Price is $49.95 plus $3.50 postage and handling, and is available at or from or at

The National Valentine Collectors Association
If you are interested in sharing the passion of Valentines with others, let me suggest a membership in the National Valentine Collectors Association. Meetings are held annually in different parts of the country, visiting private and museum collections, and enjoying the camaraderie of others with a shared interest. Quarterly newsletters and mail-bid auctions make the celebration of Valentine’s Day one that lasts all year!

Dues: $20/year; $25. outside the USA; payable by mail or PayPal
Contact: Nancy Rosin, President

The National Valentine Collectors Association
P.O. Box 647
Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417


This is a five-part article. Don’t forget to check out the previous parts if you haven’t read them already. In the meantime, if you’re looking for great Valentine’s Day gifts, check out Karen’s Collectors Cottage!

Collecting Valentines — The Language of Love Part Four

posted by Karen Hood
Friday, January 15, 2010

by Nancy Rosin
Source: The Ephemera Society of America

Postcard Valentines. “Beauty” under a newspaper,
signed Ellen Clapsaddle, 1912; Early baseball design. ca. 1910;
Beautiful woman, by Samuel L. Schmucker, Winsch Publishing Co., 1910; Mechanical postcard, Frances Brundage design, 1910.

4. Varieties of Valentines
I have already mentioned a number of types — but basically there are the machine-made and the handmade. In the machine made category I would include the engravings, the lithographs, and the wood-block designs, the aquatints, the embossed lace, the openwork lace, the Victorian die-cut layered ones, the postcards, the fans, the mechanicals, and the German die-cuts of the turn of the century.

In the handmade category we can include the folded and cutout designs, called scherenschnitte, fraktur, cut-paper designs such as the heart and hand motif, the devotionals — also often called knipsel or canivets, pin-pricks, stencil (poonah or theorem) designs, labyrinths or mazes, acrostics, puzzle-purses, cobwebs, rebuses, watchpapers, hair-decorated, handwritten, embroidered, watercolored, and probably others I cannot think of at the moment!

Three-dimensional items include elaborate Sailor’s Valentines made of shells, glass rolling pins, corset stays–called “busks”– made of wood or whalebone, Welsh love spoons, knitting sheaths, and bobbins. Magnificent fans, impressive jewelry, fine gloves, and a wide variety of utilitarian and decorative boxes and items made from wood, silver, brass, enamel, or ivory… all might be decorated with motifs signifying love, courtship, betrothal, and marriage. Love-letter seals and “love token” coins are distant cousins, but stretch the concept of the Valentine as a token of love which might be given any day of the year. The list is endless, and each area is worthy of a collection by itself.

5. The Creation of a Collection
First, one has to be intrigued and fascinated by the concepts I have outlined already. Even if one has no idea of the majesty of the things I described, if you are open to learning, and like the intrinsic theme, I think you’re set for some fun. There are a great many areas for collecting valentines — from a few dollars to a huge amount for very serious pieces which may be coveted by long-established collectors. Some people focus on one particular period or style — I know someone with a vast and fabulous collection of Valentines with the theme of golf — others select colorful children, open-out fans, postcards, or the works of specific artists, like Clapsaddle, Brundage, or Greenaway, for example. Sometimes it’s good to get a little “price guide” which you can use as a form of checklist — realizing, of course, that price lists have very little merit, for the prices change rapidly, and vary according to location and demand. Once you start, it’s good to go to antique fairs, auctions, paper shows (the term is officially “ephemera”) and museums. Seeing the actual pieces is the very best way to acquire knowledge. The books on the subject are out of print, but most good libraries have them, and they should be sought with determination. Knowledge is essential before you make any significant financial commitment. The National Valentine Collector’s Association provides a quarterly newsletter, with lots of information, a mail-bid auction, annual meetings in various locations around the country, and the opportunity to meet other people who share the same interest. This is definitely a subject area which enraptures — and delivers its rewards in so many ways. The artistry and elegance, the craftsmanship of hand- or machine-made varieties, and the accompanying history make this a collectors’ paradise!


This is a five-part article. Stay tuned during the rest of the week for the continuation. Tomorrow: The Enduring Love of a Collector. In the meantime, if you’re looking for great Valentine’s Day gifts, check out Karen’s Collectors Cottage!