Taking a look at antique Valentine’s Day cards

Valentine’s Day in school in the 1940s and 1950s meant a celebration with cards delivered to a student’s desk or a decorated box on the teacher’s desk. Sweet treats — especially the small, hard candy hearts printed with special messages, also were popular. Like today, there were concerns that some students would not get many, or receive cards that are unkind, or none at all. So, stores sold packages of valentines, enough for a class. A popular brand found at the dime store offered a box of “25 Valentine cutouts, all different, One for Teacher, 29c all with envelopes.” Handwritten valentine notes were used in America by the 1740s. In the 1840s, fancy envelopes with paper lace and cutout pictures were made and sold in Massachusetts by Esther Howland. In the 1890s, clever mechanical cards with moving parts were popular. From 1900 to the 1920s, postcards were favored. Today, the 1950s die-cut valentines sell for less than a dollar to $15. Older, lacy cards can sell from $20 to $100. There are two clubs and shows with information: the National Valentine Collectors Association and the Greeting Card Association.


Q: I recently found two old dining-room chairs in my attic that I remember using as a child 70 years ago. They have an arched back, six turned spindles and a shaped seat. I remember them having a shiny black finish, but they are very worn. I’m thinking of repainting them, but my son suggests that doing so might reduce their value. Can you tell me what their value is and whether repainting would make them more or less valuable?

A: Repainting or refinishing will lower the value of a piece of furniture if it is a valuable antique, made by a well-known craftsman or finished with a hand-painted technique like grain painting. Your chairs are not very old; they’re probably from the early 1900s. They are worth about $50. So, in your case, repainting them might bring them back to life and raise their decorative value.


Q: What is a Fuller & Warren coal kitchen stove worth? It’s a Stewart Model and has a compartment on the right side of the cook top for water.

A: Fuller & Warren Co. was in business in Troy, New York, from 1846 to 1934. The company made stoves, ranges, heaters and other equipment. Philo Penfield Stewart, one of the founders of Oberlin College, held several patents for cast-iron cooking stoves. Fuller & Warren bought the rights to the Stewart patents in the 1850s and began making Stewart model stoves under his supervision. It became the company’s most popular brand, and more than 2 million were sold. Old stoves can be hard to sell unless they’re in good condition. Most are bought to be used, but coal is not a popular fuel.


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