Excerpt from the book:
Treasury- A Century of Valentine Cards"
English mechanical, 2"X8" pull-down Victorian Valentine card with tabs which reveals intricate garden scene. Value: $95-120.
If there is one card which
attracts collectors' interests, it is the three-dimensional fold-out (mechanical in
nature) valentine produced for countless years. The earliest were produced in Germany and
England, with Germany quickly capturing the American market with countless examples
ranging in size from two inches to cards which exceed fourteen inches in height and width.
Prices ranged from five cents to one dollar. Their scarcity lies in the fact that they
were manufactured from inexpensive pasteboard (layers of thin paper glued together) and
countless layers held together by thin paper tabs which quickly broke and became unglued.
Once broken, many of them were discarded. Also ephemeral in nature, they were doomed to a
quick demise by many who just simply discarded them soon after Valentine's Day.
Heavy cardboard Victorian Valentine with deeply embossed flowers, 3"X4" pull-down with pink carnations. Value: $50-60.
Fold-outs from the 1890s to
the early 1900s consisting of four or more layers of heavy paper board ingeniously
connected by pull-like hinges are very desirable today. When pulled gently forward from
the base, these creations assume a three-dimensional stand-up position. These
multi-layered valentines, with the various layers hinged by carefully camouflaged tabs,
varied widely in format and theme. Nevertheless, they were most always sentimental in
theme. Pink-cheeked cherubs nestled among pillows of satin and lace, holding baskets of
lilacs; lovers gazed limpidly at one another from garden bowers, or glided among nameless
waterways on garlanded and ribboned sailing vessels, or somewhat later, in open touring
cars. In pristine condition, the larger types are a spectacle to behold when displayed.
Often too large, and actually almost too fragile to send safely through the mail, most
were simply slipped into plain, unadorned envelopes and hand delivered. Until the start of
World War I, these creations actually revitalized an industry which was somewhat waning.
Often times, they were
preserved and placed on parlor tables. But the majority of them were glued into albums due
to the fad for albums which swept Europe and America in the 1870s after the Civil War.
Scrapbooks arrived in the late 1860s around the same time that the mass production of
scraps had started in Germany. Scrapbooks provided a convenient way to see and handle
these beautiful cards. The first scrapbooks were more like notebooks, small and fairly
indistinguishable from any other blank book. Gradually these albums became highly
decorative, often rivaling the valentines contained inside the albums. These scrapbooks
saved many large valentines from destruction.
Fold-down Coronation-type carriage with large quantity of doves. 11 1/2"X 14 1/4". Value: $165-180.
The Victorians loved
flowers, attested by the appearance of flowers on almost every valentine manufactured. The
rose was especially suited to the romantic theme of valentines. Rosebuds, tea roses, and
cabbage roses appeared singly or in bouquets adorning valentines in baskets, wheelbarrows,
and with birds, hearts, and hands. Other flowers commonly used in valentines included
pansies, violets, lilies of the valley, lilacs, and even orchids. Embossing gave these
flowers a very realistic quality.
Rather than flowers- now children, cupids and women often
appeared on valentines. Children appeared alone with other children in natural settings
with adults, and dressed in every conceivable form of attire. All these scraps conformed
to the Victorian idea of beauty: flawless porcelain complexions, tiny noses, rosebud
mouths, huge and heavily lashed eyes, and thick heads of hair.
"Germany" or "Made in Germany" are
usually the only identifying marks on many of these fold-out valentines. No matter where
they were designed, where they were eventually sold, or whose trademark they might
sometimes possess; these cards were printed in a German factory. The greatest number of
these manufacturers were located in Berlin, although other German cities: including
Hamburg, Breslau, Leipzig, Dresden, and Frankfurt- also housed valentine and other card
manufacturers. However, one major firm, Emmanuel Heller, was based in Vienna.
Countless single pieces of scraps were required to produce
these very large, elaborate valentines. In an effort to save money in a period where so
many scraps were needed for card manufacturing, publishers designed sheets in such a way
to minimize the amount of tool making. By placing a larger number of scraps in a single
sheet and increasing the size of the sheet slightly, they saved much effort and money.
After printing and embossing, the scraps were separated into 1000 sheet swags, for
wholesale distribution. The degree of complexity involved in the printing and
manufacturing determined the final price.
Originally, these cards entered America via importers who
often purchased paper goods. However, as the demand for these cards increased, German
companies found it profitable to set up offices in the United States, particularly New
York City. U.S. Firms which imported materials included George C. Whitney, Louis Prang,
Dennison Manufacturing Co., and the Hebrew Publishing Co. Many of the early German
printers were Jewish and it might seem strange that they be involved in valentines. But
this company's involvement is easy to understand. Their popular Jewish New Year's cards
often were changed slightly and used as valentines, thus gaining a large portion of the
market. Some valentines were marked and these include those made by Ernest Nister &
Co., the largest lithographic establishment in Germany, based in Nuremberg. Some English
manufacturers who often marked their cards were the Artistic Lithographic Co. (1891-1914)
who was operated by the Obpacher Brothers and Davidson Brothers (1883-1912) which produced
both cards and valentine greeting booklets.
Siegmund Hildesheimer and Company of Germany specialized in
early fold-out cards. An 1884 advertisement in The Stationery Trades Journal
boasted of "Valentines, Tasteful in Conception." With offices in London,
Manchester, and New York, they produced countless fold-out and other three-dimensional
valentines. Unfortunately none of their valentines were marked, but their distinctive
large, dimensional fold-outs with themes of transportation are attributed to this company
through oral historians who have interviewed workers in this prestigious firm.
A historical look at Valentine's Day including its origins and celebration customs are
included. Hundreds of valentines are pictured, each in vibrant and true colors along with
a price evaluation to help the collector determine current market value for these
ephemeral reminders of past generations. Esther Howland, Whitney, Prang, Tuck, Gibson,
Hallmark, American Greetings, and countless other manufacturers of valentines will become
clear to the reader with research text and supporting photographs of valentines produced
by these individuals and companies. This comprehensive book is an invaluable aid to
collectors, museum curators, and to all Valentine's Day enthusiasts, helping them to
better understand this very popular holiday and its traditions. Anyone who has ever sent
or received a valentine will find this book fascinating and interesting to read.