Valentine’s Day is an old holiday that started with a Christian martyr, St. Valentine, about 500 A.D., or the Roman fertility fest Lupercalia. In the 1860s, insulting comic valentines called “penny dreadfuls” were sold. A few commercial cards were made by the 1870s from homemade paper, lace and ribbons.
By late Victorian times, there were “mechanical” cards with moving parts, embossed cards, cards with “honeycomb tissue” to make them three-dimensional and, by the 1900s, postcards.
A beginning collector can find reasonably priced postcards and die-cut cards that were sold in dime stores. Teachers insisted every student receive a card so there would be no hard feelings. Sets sold for 29 cents for 25 cards plus a larger one for the teacher.
Each 3-1/2-inch card was punched free of the stiff paper, signed on the back and put in the envelope provided. The cards featured a friendly comic drawing and a heart with a message that often was a pun.
Collectors of postcards specialize and look for cards with out-of-town postmarks, city views, jobs, comics or current events or items that were typical of the year and will seem old in the future. Save the cards you get, and ask friends and older relatives for theirs to start a collection.
Is there a new collecting vocabulary? I remember an “antique” had to be 100 years old, so that means it is anything made before 1919. “Vintage” meant anything too new to be antique but not young enough to be “collectible.” And “contemporary” meant something made recently or even today.
We try to use the current vocabulary of the antiques collectors, dealers and even the art world. The Wall Street Journal recently said that “contemporary” art is something made by someone born after 1910. We have to decide what dates to use in Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, so we list objects as contemporary if they are made after 1975. The government says the old meaning of antique is the legal rule, 100 years old.
“Vintage” changes with the item; vintage wine is not the same age as vintage comic books. It is a word that stands for the years between antique and collectible. Several writers say “collectible” means something more than 25 years old. A big auction house recently said it was 20 years.
And don’t forget “midcentury modern” goes earlier and later than 1950, sometimes from 1940 to 1975. The birth date of the artist is not a good indication of the age of the object.
Cut-glass compote, hob star, strawberry diamond and fan and geometrics, teardrop stem, signed, J. Hoare, 7 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches, $50.
Barograph, weather testing, oak case, Short & Maso, 1915, 15 x 9 inches, $195.
Kazak rug, geometric design, red center, blue border, hand woven, 73 x 114 inches, $545.
Hunting horn, carved, hunting dogs, running dogs, palmetto tree, 1800s, 12 inches, $780.
Tip: Got bubble gum on your sports cards? Rub them gently with a nylon stocking.
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