Lately, I have been quite busy going through my vast inventory of vintage treasure to find items to stock for Valentine’s Day (romantics, take note! It’s coming up quickly!). Heart shaped items, bright red fashion pieces, romantic sheet music, even an antique book of Tennyson’s poetry are all available in the Valentine’s Day section of Upswing Vintage.
And of course there are the cards. I have quite a few in my store, the oldest of which date to the 1930s. I also recently acquired a huge amount of cards – valentines and otherwise – from the estate of a woman who apparently worked for the Gump’s card department back in the 1980s. I have vast amounts of very high end greeting cards like this that were sold at this legendary San Francisco department store 30 years ago, all in unused, mint condition.
Perhaps my favorite thing I’ve listed so far is this book of 1950s push-out Valentines for children. There is not one inch of this item that is not adorable. From the little girl with the flocked dress on the cover (who is actually a push out valentine herself), to the cut and fold envelopes decorated with red and blue heart stick figures, to the tiny “kissing stamps” – it is enough to make you swoon with the cuteness of it all.
While I am quite proud of the Valentine’s Day cards offered in my shop, I must admit I am not listing all that I have in my possession. I adore vintage greeting cards of all kinds, but these little tokens of love are a particular favorite. I must admit, I tend to hoard them for myself when I find them, but I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you here.
Above are some of the first vintage Valentine’s Day cards I acquired. These are all from different decades, with the most recent being from the 1940s or so. And the oldest? That one up at the top looking all Victorian – because it is.
This purple flowery heart Valentine is from none other than Raphael Tuck and Sons, the company which featured prominently in my last blog post. This gorgeous die cut valentine dates to the 1870s-1880s – isn’t it exquisite? The one next to it actually stands up, a style that was very popular from about 1895 to 1915.
Many months ago, I came across three large scrapbooks from the late 1960s and early 1970s, all completely filled with greeting cards. The woman who made these scrapbooks lovingly pasted every card she received from her husband, her parents, her children and her friends in these books. I have spent hours pouring over them, reading the birthday wishes from friends, the Get Well sentiments after she had surgery, and the vast numbers of Christmas cards she received.
But my favorite are the ones she gave to her husband, and those he gave to her. This couple gave each other cards for every single occasion: birthday, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day of course, but also Easter and New Year’s Day. I am quite certain I have never given my husband a card for Easter, let alone New Year’s.
Here are some of the Valentine’s Day cards they gave to each other. This couple, particularly “the hubby” as he signed himself, tended to favor the humorous cards. She was a bit more lovey dovey. Together, I’m sure they were perfectly balanced!
Finally, we come to a love affair that really touched me. The man who gave his beloved these cards clearly adored her. The cards came to me along with numerous other documents from their life, giving me a tiny glimpse into their world.
But the cards! They span three decades of their life together, from the early 1950s to the mid 1970s. Each one has a succinct, but very heartfelt note from him. The fact that she kept them with all her important papers gives me hope that she cherished him just as much.
Is it voyeuristic to look into the lives of couples from long ago through the valentines they gave? Perhaps. But I prefer to think that I am preserving a bit of the love they shared. As they say, true love never dies.
More to see on vintage Valentine’s Day cards:
Video featuring a wonderful collection of cards, including the first mail posted valentine on record, dating to 1806