The custom of sending Valentine cards on Feb. 14 might date back as far as the 14th century. By the 18th century, paper valentines were well-known as signs of love. The fancy, lacy valentines collected today were first made in Europe at the beginning of the 1800s.
Embossed paper, cut-out edges and hand-colored pictures were used to make valentines. Lace paper and paste-on decorations could be bought in stores by the 1830s. In America, the first appearances of valentines were recorded in the mid 1800s. Most were handmade. Printed valentines could be bought in New York City in 1833. By the 1840s, movable valentines were popular, and figures were made to move with the help of cardboard pieces and thread.
The business of making valentines was big by 1857 when, according to records, more than 3-million were sold by New York City stores.
Although valentines have been "improved" with fabric flowers, beads, feathers, real lace, shells, spun glass and more, the valentine with paper lace and paper pictures remains popular. Collectors today will pay more than $150 for an elaborate old valentine made with silver lace and colored lithographs. Makers like Esther Howland, Raphael Tuck and Louis Prang add to the value.
Three-dimensional cards, first popular in the 1890s, are still admired. They are fragile and were damaged easily, but they continue to be made and are wanted by collectors.
Bottle by Buckeye
Q: I have an old pale-green glass bottle embossed with an image of a stag's head and the words "Green Seal Select." The bottom front edge is embossed "pure and without drugs or poison," and the bottom of the bottle is embossed "Buckeye Bottling Works, Toledo, O." What is the history of this bottle.
A: Green Seal Select beer was an early brand, made by the Buckeye Brewing Co. of Toledo. Buckeye was in business from 1838 until 1972. The words "pure and without drugs or poison" were used by many bottlers after passage of the 1906 Federal Pure Food and Drug Act. So your bottle dates from after 1906 and probably before the 1930s, when applied color labels gained favor. During Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, Buckeye bottled soda and brewed "near beer." Whatever it once held, your bottle is worth about $15 today.
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New Relpo planters?
Q: Are the Relpo Valentine-lady figurine planters being reproduced? My husband collects them, and this year he's seeing many online advertised as "like new." Some are going for a lot of money. I'm talking about the figurine planters with white dresses covered with hearts.
A: Relpo, short for the Reliable Glassware & Pottery Co., was the sales division of Samson Import Co., a Chicago importer. Samson was founded by Samuel Krivit in 1933, and Relpo was started by his son, Jerome. The Krivits, like other American importers, bought ceramics from Japan, including lady head vases and figurine planters. We have not yet heard that anyone is making new Valentine figurine planters like Relpo's, which included a lady holding a closed umbrella and a lady putting a letter in a mailbox. The figurine planters are popular with collectors, and it's possible someone found some stored boxes of originals.
Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.
- Val St. Lambert bowl, radiating lines, red and clear, 1960s, 81/2 inches, $90.
- Daisy and Hearts vegetable bowl, oval, Johnson Brothers dinnerware, 10 inches, $130.
-Valentine greeting card, cobweb center, cherubs, swans, lace fringe, c. 1850, 7 by 5 inches, $510.
- Elizabeth Arden perfume bottle, My Love, clear and frosted glass, sealed, 1948, 4 inches, $600.
- Swan Boat candy container, rabbit and chick, Victory Glass, 1900s, 41/4 inches, $955.
- Raggedy Ann and Andy doll, muslin body, red mop hair, Averill, 1950s, 20 inches, pair, $2,510.
-Blanket chest, Pennsylvania, dovetail case, turned feet, red-putty design on yellow ground, large star and heart center, c. 1810, 24 by 43 inches, $6,355.