We Love Vintage Valentines

They're a classic way to say "I love you!"

What started as the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia that celebrated fertility has now evolved into a holiday during which one billion cards are sent, according to the Greeting Card Association. But wooing loved ones with cards brimming in cute verses is not just a 21st century tradition—or a 20th century tradition, either. Since the Middle Ages, Europeans have exchanged handmade Valentines, eventually turning over the duty of making cards to factories in the 1800s.

You can still collect these relics of romance today! Nothing is more sentimental than a literal piece of history. The often elaborate designs on these cards also serve perfectly as vintage decor.

History of Valentines Cards

Although written verses of ardor had been exchanged in Europe for awhile, Valentines cards really took off in popularity when industrialization hit Britain in the early 1800s, allowing for the mass production of cards. Dwindling postal rates in the 1840s due to the Uniform Penny Post only kindled the printed Valentine’s Day greeting fervor.

Valentines Day ephemera
These factory-produced Valentines started off modestly—they featured black and white pictures, which factory workers painted. But when Queen Victoria took reign and the Victorian era ensued in the mid-1800s, Valentine’s Day received a new surge in popularity and subsequently more ornate cards.

Artwork on these greetings commonly featured flowers, love knots, Cupid, real lace, paper lacework, embossing, ribbons and more: all these materials were referred to as “Victorian scrap.” The traditional folded greeting card that most people exchange today did not take form until offset lithography became a cheaper method for producing Valentines in the late 19th century. But not all cards were a standard rectangular shape: through die-cut techniques, cards were made into shapes like crescent moons and hearts, and sometimes even had characters and shapes pop out.

The Valentine’s Day greetings craze transferred over to the United States in 1849 when Esther Howland, an American printer and artist, published and sold Valentines. As one of the first to commercialize Valentines in the US, she became known as “Mother of the Valentine.” Renown company Hallmark Cards sold its first Valentines in 1913—American Valentine’s cards sometimes boasted more intimate artwork than on European card fronts.

Valentines Day collectibles and ephemera


Where to Find and Collect Valentines

A quick eBay search for “vintage Valentine’s Day cards” leaves you with an almost limitless offering of old greetings to choose from—with most of them ringing below $10! The same search on Etsy also produces an impressive amount of vintage gems. Ruby Lane, an online marketplace for antiques and vintage finds, is another great source for collectible Valentine’s Day cards.

If you are willing to hunt for an especially old greeting card, attend antique shows and auctions!



Treat Your Friends to a Vintage-Inspired, Paris-Themed Tea

Continue the spirit of Valentine’s Day with this elegant, Paris-themed setup for a brunch or tea with your friends. Whether inside or out, vintage, pink and Paris makes for a charming theme all year round!

Paris Themed Tea
Photo by Jaimee Itagaki

Get the Look here:

Parisienne Dining Side Chair

Parisienne Dining Side Chair by Woodard, $199.55. Visit wayfair.com.

Ellis Rectangular Rattan Folding Table

Ellis Rectangular Rattan Folding Table, $222.95. Visit jossandmain.com.

Princess Damask Vintage Tablecloth

Princess Damask Vintage Tablecloth by Violet Linen, $17.99. Visit wayfair.com.

10 Strawberry Street Coral 16-piece Dinnerware Set

10 Strawberry Street Coral 16-piece Dinnerware Set, $65.99. Visit overstock.com.

Wall tapestry, Paris for Two by OLHADAR

Wall tapestry, Paris for Two by OLHADAR, $79.00 (for large dimension). Visit society6.com.

Decorative Pink Cake Stand

Decorative Pink Cake Stand, $17.00. Visit BelleVieArtDecor on etsy.com.

2-Tier Vintage Dessert Stand
75864768765 metal tier tray

2-Tier Vintage Dessert Stand, $44. Visit save-on-crafts.com.

Light Pink SimplyPoly Cloth Napkins

Light Pink SimplyPoly Cloth Napkins, $1.09/ea. Visit tablelinensforless.com.

Orbit Napkin Ring in Brushed Gold

Orbit Napkin Ring in Brushed Gold, $2.99. Visit bedbathandbeyond.com.

DIY Valentine’s Day Banner

Decorate for Valentine's Day with this cute and festive banner.


DIY Valentine's Day Banner

We love to celebrate Valentine’s Day around here. Here’s a fun and easy DIY banner you can use for your Valentine’s Day party or to brighten up your home for a romantic evening for two. Here’s how to do it:


  • Cardstock or scrapbook paper in pink and red
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Letter template
  • Used book (we got ours at the local library bookstore)
  • Double-sided tape
  • Embellishments, such as small gems, pearls or glitter glue
  • Twine or string
  • Washi tape or tacks
  • Miniature clothes pins

How to Do It:

  1. Determine what size you want to make your banner pieces. We cut our banners to 4″ x 6″. Feel free to mix and match the pieces with patterned and solid paper.
  2. Cut into the middle of the banner to create the ribbon-like edging, then set the banner pieces aside.
  3. Rip out pages from the used book. Use a letter template to trace the necessary letters onto the back of the pages. Make sure you trace them backward—that way, when you cut them out, the right side won’t have any pencil markings. Double check that you have all the letters you need (and don’t forget the double letters, like P in happy).
  4. Lay out the banner pieces in whatever order you want, then use the double-sided tape to tape your letters (right-side up) onto the banner pieces. Embellish as desired.
  5. Use decorative tacks or Washi tape to hang the twine or string, then attach the banner pieces with miniature clothes pins.

Want more Valentine’s Day party ideas? Check out our posts here and here.

Special thanks to Havilah Steinman

Decorating Ideas for Valentines Day

country cottage kitchen

Tour romantic designer Kate Forman’s English country home through the years.

Enjoy a Regency inspired Valentine’s Day tea.

Discover nine new paint colors from Farrow & Ball, including Peignoir, Shadow White, and Vardo.

DIY: heart-shaped tea lights.

Take your pick: gallery of French settees.

Speaking of French, Nigella Lawlson’s Valentine’s Day recipe guide stopped us with French Lasagna – stuffed ham and cheese croissant casserole.

This week’s featured Instagrammer:

Lacy Valentine’s Day Cookies

Bake a sweet treat for your sweet heart!

Valentines Day Lace Cookies
Simple yet effective, these beautiful cookies will please everyone, from your valentine to your galentine.

What better way to say “I love you” than with delicious, decorated heart cookies? These Valentine’s Day cookies are the perfect way to show special someones just how much they mean to you. These cookies are very easy to decorate. All it takes is a little time, handful of ingredients and a whole lot of love.

Valentine's Cookies Step 8
Fondant may seem intimidating, but it’s not that difficult!

Ayda Algin’s Favorite Sugar Cookies

Decorated or not, these cookies will be the sweetest thing this Valentine’s Day!

You’ll need:

3½ tablespoons margarine, softened
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

  1. In a bowl, mix all ingredients until smooth.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. When the cookies are done, they will look dry but will still be soft to the touch. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on wire racks.
Actual lace is what gives these patterned cookies their signature look.

Decorate with Lacy Fondant

You’ll need:

Your heart shaped sugar cookies
A piece of white patterned Nylon material (for the lace pattern)
White sugar paste or fondant
Red liquid food coloring
A heart shaped cookie cutter
Non-stick rolling pin

  1. Start by dividing your sugar paste into pieces, each about the size of a walnut.
  2. Add small amounts of food coloring until you reach the desired color. Knead the food coloring into the sugar paste until it’s thoroughly blended. Add more color as needed until the desired hue is achieved. If a color ends up too dark, add more white sugar paste to lighten the tone.
  3. I made four different shades of pink and kept one ball white. After you knead the color into the fondant, wrap the fondant in plastic wrap and place in an airtight plastic bag. Then place it in a small box or plastic container to keep it from hardening until you are ready to use it.




Recipe: Sugar Cookie and Icing Glaze

Valentine’s Day is a day when we celebrate the love we have in our life whether it’s a significant other, relative or friend. Show your sweethearts how much you care with a yummy treat.

Wrap your cookies up in something just as sweet!

Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for two hours. Roll the dough out to about ¼-inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Leave one inch of space between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350° Fahrenheit.

Cool for one hour before frosting.


Have fun when decorating—let your artistic side show!

Icing Glaze Recipe

  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons of milk

Combine powdered sugar and milk in a bowl and stir until smooth (the icing should not be too runny). Add more powdered sugar if necessary to thicken the glaze. Tint with food coloring. Use a separate bowl for each color needed.

Frost the cookie with the icing. Smooth the top with a spatula dipped in water. Use the edge of the spatula to scrape off any icing that has run over the edge of the cookie. The icing glaze hardens in a couple of hours.