Valentines: Enduring tokens of love are very collectible

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I bet we all remember getting our first Valentine and how important each succeeding Valentine's Day became.

I remember the little school store getting in a shipment of penny valentines and more expensive, movable cards with characters like Mickey Mouse or Wonder Woman. For a dime you could get one with fine lace that would open up and stand. These special valentines were meant for the one girl who captured your daily thoughts. You know, puppy love! More later on my puppy love.

Valentines began in the late 1600s in Europe with elaborate cutouts, embossed figures, lace and romantic verses. During the early 1800s, these tokens of love made their way to the United States and became very popular. Soon they were being produced here.

The first entrepreneur was a student in college in Worcester, Mass., named Esther Howland. She made Valentines for her friends and soon discovered she could sell them. Her brother went out on a trip and took orders.

A new industry was born. Howland's valentines were such a hit, she had to hire other women to help create the messages of love. By 1860, sales reached $100,000.

By the gay '90s, Victorian valentines were a very important method of communicating thoughts between boys and girls, men and women.

Ellen Clapsaddle produced attractive cards for New York International Art Company around the turn of the last century, and today those cards are widely sought after, with prices 100 times the original cost or more, depending on condition.

Let's get back to my puppy love Valentine story. In 1940, I was in seventh grade, and three rows across our schoolroom sat the cutest girl, named Jacqueline.

Being bashful, I dared not try to talk to her.

One Valentine's Day, I sealed a penny valentine and put a nickel in the envelope, signed "Guess Who." After I put it on her desk before the lunch bell rang, I wondered what would happen.

Nothing.

Fast forward to 40 years later. My wife and I were visiting the cemetery where my parents are buried, and at the gate house the caretaker greeted us. Her name was Jacqueline, and we exchanged pleasantries.

Then I told her my Valentine story about a girl named Jacqueline, and she immediately said, "That was you? I never forgot."

Valentines have played and still play an important part in our lives. What do you remember?

Collecting and presenting these moments is invaluable.

Jerry Glenn is co-owner of Reminisce in Bluffton, where sports collectibles are bought and sold.

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