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As with the collection of other historical documents, acquiring Valentines involves a moral obligation: the responsibility to safeguard and preserve them for posterity.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!

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