Valentine’s Day honors the Christian martyr St. Valentine, as well as the Roman goddess of marriage, Juno. Persecuted by the Roman emperor in 273, the St. Valentine’s feast day is highlighted with the gifting of flowers, sharing symbols of love and sending romantic cards.
While St. Valentine presented the flowers from his garden to young lovers in an effort to promote the Catholic sacrament of matrimony, the Feb. 14 celebration that bears his name has sparked the exchange of various works of art and antiques.
Some of the most popular Valentine’s keepsakes from the antiques world are:
Valentine cards: These small tokens are exchanged between childhood friends and star-crossed lovers. Examples from the early 1900s come in the form of postcards and are worth $5 to $10. Vintage examples from the World War II era range in value from $10 to $20 depending on condition, market, artist and sentimental message.
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Courting lamps: The Victorians gave us restrictions on courtship in the form of the courting lamp. The courting lamp had graduated markings on the glass to indicate minutes. The marks showed the amount of time left before the fuel source expired and your lover must be on his way home. Today, these rare Valentine’s keepsakes are worth $50 to $100.
Candy containers: Glass candy containers from the early 1900s came in all shapes and sizes. They are widely collected and range in value from $50 to several hundred dollars.
Chocolate molds: Chocolate molds are very popular, particularly on the day when an abundance of chocolate is exchanged and consumed. Metal chocolate molds that date back to the late 19th century are the most sought-after examples that collectors look for, and they are expensive. Fine examples are valued between $500 and $2,500.
Jewelry: There is nothing quite like getting a piece of fine jewelry featuring gold, silver, or other precious metals and gemstones. Costume jewelry also is a popular Valentine’s gift by makers such as Sarah Coventry, Weiss, Trifari, Coro, Monet and Maravella.
Candy boxes: Russell Stover, Godiva and Whitman candy boxes on a living room coffee table spoke volumes about this winter day. Once these delicious chocolates were devoured, the candy boxes — made of decorated embossed cardboard — were saved through the years. Today, candy boxes in the shape of hearts command $2 to $10 at antique shops.
Hair crafts: From circa 1850-1890, weaving human hair was a popular craft project. Women would save their hair from a hairbrush, place it into a hair receiver and use it later as a material for weaving watch fobs, bracelets and framed hair flowers. These items were given as presents to loved ones on Valentine’s Day.
Dance cards: In the early 1900s, a dance card was a coveted and highly personal object. Some cards were worn like oversized lockets around the neck of the prettiest girl at the party. For some Valentine’s sweethearts, dance cards were made of a metal cover with thin sheets of bone used like paper to write a future dance partner’s name promising him the next dance. These rare pieces of Americana are not easy to find and range in value from $50 to $75 depending on condition.
Vintage couture: Winter hats, coats, scarves and formal gloves from that bygone night on the town in celebration of Valentine’s Day are all the rage. Look for period hats of faux fur or felt, and leather gloves with fanciful detailing at thrift shops, antiques stores and flea markets. You will have to save your pennies to buy some of these name-brand pieces with the highly sought-after hats ranging in value from $250 to $500 each.
Flower vases: When you receive that wonderful valentine bouquet, it is wonderful to enjoy the blooms and the fragrance. However, once the roses wilt, the vase from the florist becomes the keepsake. Many of these florist vases from circa 1930 to 1950 have stood the test of time. Ceramic pieces by Royal Haeger, McCoy and other firms are cherished valentine collectibles today. In good condition, they command $125 to $150.
This Valentine’s Day as you make new memories, don’t forget to cherish the old ones with antiques and collectibles.