Valentine's Day is an old holiday that started about A.D. 500

Terry And Kim Kovel
Kovel’s Antiques And Collecting

Valentine’s Day is an old holiday that started with a Christian martyr, St. Valentine, about A.D. 500, or the Roman fertility fest Lupercalia. In the 1760s, insulting comic valentines called “penny dreadfuls” were sold. A few commercial cards were made by the 1870s from homemade paper, lace and ribbons. By late Victorian times, there were “mechanical” cards with moving parts, embossed cards, cards with “honeycomb tissue” to make them three-dimensional and, by the 1900s, postcards.

A beginning collector can find reasonably priced postcards and die-cut cards that were sold in dime stores. Teachers insisted every student receive a card so there would be no hard feelings. Sets sold for 29 cents for 25 cards plus a larger one for the teacher. Each 3-1/2-inch card was punched free of the stiff paper, signed on the back, and put in the envelope provided. The cards featured a friendly comic drawing and a heart with a message that often was a pun. Collectors of postcards specialize and look for cards with out-of-town postmarks, city views, jobs, comics, or current events or items that were typical of the year and will seem old in the future. Save the cards you get, and ask friends and older relatives for theirs to start a collection.

Q I have some grapes scissors and would like to know if they’re sterling silver or silver plated. They’re marked “Elkington” and with the letter “v” in an oval with a flat top and bottom, and a shield mark.

A Elkington was the first company to make electroplated silver commercially. It also made solid silver. George Richards Elkington started as an apprentice in his uncle’s silver-plating business in Birmingham, England, about 1815. He took over the business when his uncle died. The name of the company was G.R. Elkington & Co. before 1836. The name was Elkington & Co. from 1886 to 1963, when it was sold to British Silverware, Ltd. The “v” with flat top and bottom is a date letter indicating your grapes scissors were made in 1907. Date letters were usually used on sterling silver, not on silver plate.

Q My husband has an antique shaving mug that belonged to his great-grandfather, who was an engineer with the Norfolk and Western Railway. He retired in 1940. The mug is marked “Limoges” and has a picture of a locomotive and a coal car with “B. of L. E.” on it. We know this stands for Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. It’s stamped “W. G. & C.” inside two scroll marks. Can you give us an idea of the value?

A Shaving mugs were popular from 1860 to 1900, when shaving required a straight razor and shaving soap, a brush and a mug to make the lather. Mugs with names and a picture were kept at the barber shop, where the man went each week. Most mugs were made in France, Germany or England and decorated in the United States. The mark on your mug was used from about 1900 to 1932 by William Guerin & Co., a pottery in Limoges, France. Collectors like railroad memorabilia, and shaving mugs picturing trains sell for high prices, about $250 to $500.

Q I’d like some history about a lamp that belonged to my grandparents. It has a wooden base with brass trim and a reverse-painted glass shade with a boat scene. It’s signed “C. Durand, Pairpoint Corp ‘19.” Is that the year it was made?

A Pairpoint Manufacturing Company was founded by Thomas J. Pairpoint in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1880. It became the Pairpoint Corporation in 1900. Reverse-painted glass shades were made until the 1930s. The signature “C. Durand” was used by the artist who painted the shade, Adolph J. Frederick. We don’t know why he chose a pseudonym for his signature. Frederick worked at Pairpoint from 1891 until 1937. The number marked on your shade probably means it was made in 1919. The company was reorganized several times, and the name was changed. It became the Pairpoint Glass Company in 1957 and is still in business, now in Sagamore, Massachusetts, where it makes luxury glass items. Pairpoint lamps sell at auction for several hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Q Is there a new collecting vocabulary? I remember an “antique” had to be 100 years old, so that means it is anything made before 1918. “Vintage” meant anything too new to be antique but not young enough to be “collectible.” And “contemporary” meant something made recently or even today.

A We try to use the current vocabulary of the antiques collectors, dealers and even the art world. The Wall Street Journal just said “contemporary” art is something made by someone born after 1910. We have to decide what dates to use in Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, so we list objects as contemporary if they are made after 1975. The government says the old meaning of antique is the legal rule, 100 years old. “Vintage” changes with the item; vintage wine is not the same age as vintage comic books. It is a word that stands for the years between antique and collectible. Several writers say “collectible” means something more than 25 years old. A big auction house recently said it was 20 years. And don’t forget “mid-century modern” goes earlier and later than 1950, sometimes from 1940 to 1975. The birth date of the artist is not a good indication of the age of the object.

Quote to save by a professional mover Finn Murphy, author of “The Long Haul”: “Even if you can’t bring yourself to get rid of your stuff, your heirs will have no such qualms at all.”

These two cards came from a punch-out set that sold for 29 cents. They were passed out to the class in the 1960s.