Valentine’s Day cards were exchanged long before the Victorian era. But sending them was expensive and was reserved for the very wealthy. In 1840 with the birth of the Penny Post in Great Britain, now almost everyone could afford to send valentines through the mail. This brought forth the explosion of Victorian valentines! Unfortunately, due to their delicate nature, only a small percentage have survived. If you’re lucky enough to find one (or a few) cherish it as it has a wonderful history.
Here’s an interesting fun fact: When valentines could suddenly be sent for a penny, they were mailed in such great numbers that postmen were given a special allowance for fountain drinks to keep them refreshed in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day!
Early on, the majority of valentines were handmade by the giver, but advances in printing methods and the booming market soon led to the popularization of commercial valentines. There were hand-tinted lithographs, perforated laces, and embossed foils. A cottage industry of hand-crafted, much loved today, fold-out valentines also emerged. Whether they were store-bought or homemade, both the Victorians and the Edwardians proudly displayed the Valentines they received on their parlor tables for all to see.
Collecting valentines is a lot of fun. Many dealers will find and curate them all year long then bring them out for their customers in late January in preparation for the holiday. Here in the Mercantile you will find many vintage and Victorian valentines throughout the store. Come on in and start your collection!