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Our candy hearts: We turn 'em out in billions

If it's hearts you want on Valentine's Day, there are those traditional "conversation hearts," miniature heart-shaped candies that carry such messages of love as Be Mine, Kiss Me and Love You.

The custom dates back to the days of the American colonists, who made homemade confectionery with messages of love scratched on the surface. By the mid-1900s, candy-makers were preparing flavored sugar lozenges, pressed into hearts, and imprinted with words of love.

The National Confectioners Association estimates that more than 10-million pounds of these conversation hearts _ totaling 3.2-billion minihearts _ will be produced this year.

Figuring about 400 hearts per pound, the association says, these 3.2-billion sentimental sweets, laid heart to heart, would stretch 24,621 miles, going from Valentines, Va., to New York City 39 times.

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