Valentines Day popular theme on
By Mike Smith
It's interesting how memory works.
When the WTs charming editor/publisher suggested I
write an article on antique Valentines Day postcards, one
of the first things I thought about was the annual exchange of
Valentines Day cards that took place when I was in elementary
If I remember correctly, we used to make up a batch of cards
in art class and then pass them around on Valentines Day,
or the Friday before if Feb. 14 was on a weekend.
Since the cards were handmade, they were all fairly crude
but it was a lot of fun and you could even find out if you had
a secret admirer or two.
Crude may have been an apt description of the
cards I made in school many years ago, but this word could never
be applied to any of the Valentines Day postcards I have
come across in over 30 years as a collector.
In fact, the greeting card postcard types circulating
during the Golden Age (19001914) were some of the finest
postcards made. Christmas, New Years, Easter, Valentines
Day, Halloween, Birthdays and St. Patricks Day were all
popular themes on Golden Age postcards.
And postcard manufacturers employed some very talented artists
and graphic designers in the battle for market share.
Figure 1. A
pretty Art Nouveau-style Valentine postcard signed by popular
artist Sadie Wendell Mitchell and published by W. G. MacFarlane.
The Figure 1 card is from a popular Valentine series published
by W. G. MacFarlane, one of Torontos most important publishers
The beautiful Art Nouveau gal on the card was drawn by Sadie
Wendell Mitchell, a highly-collected artist among todays
Fortunately for Mitchell fans, MacFarlane published at least
40 cards with her pretty gals in six different series.
In fact, I know of no other postcard publisher with so much
Sadie Wendell Mitchell material so sticking with MacFarlane is
a safe bet if you want to collect this artist. Don't be surprised
though if you end up paying $20 and up for some of the better
Mitchell cards. She is in demand.
Figure 2. A beautiful
Valentine postcard printed in Germany and published by W. G.
MacFarlane around 1907.
As soon as I saw the Valentine postcard shown in Figure 2,
I knew right away it was a German printing. The brilliant colours
and richness of the design were a dead giveaway.
Most antique postcard collectors will concede that with few
exceptions, prior to 1914, German printers were simply the best.
In fact, two of the biggest postcard publishers in Canada, the
aforementioned W. G. MacFarlane and Brantfords Stedman
Bros., relied almost exclusively on German-printed cards.
It's no coincidence the start of the First World War and
the subsequent embargo on all things German helped mark the end
of the postcards Golden Age. That said, I'm just thankful
that so many German-printed postcards have survived.
Whats this card worth? The good news is that without
an artists signature, there's not much demand for cards
like this so they can be picked up for next to nothing. The bad
news is that demand is so low that many dealers don't bother
Figure 3. This
lovey-dovey card from Stedman Bros. of Brantford has an impressive
3D design that would certainly delight the sweetheart at the
I mentioned Stedman Bros. of Brantford in the previous paragraph,
so I guess it's only fair I show a card from one of the fancier
Stedman Bros. series. The Figure 3 postcard may not have been
specifically intended for Valentines Day, but the lovey-dovey
theme is close enough.
This attractive card is one of the two known without a specific
view from a Stedman series with 100+ rectangular views in fancy
frames. The design has a wonderful 3D look about it and it would
certainly impress the intended recipient.
Note that Stedman Bros. published two other fancy-framed
postcard series: one series with a single oval view and another
with two oval views per card. All three series were printed in
Germany (no surprise there).
The price for the lovey-dovey card would be between $5 and
$10 depending on condition and postmark, if any. Other fancy-framed
cards by Stedman Bros. can sell for much higher, depending on
the view (city, town, lumber mill, factory, etc.) within the
Figure 4. Another
German-made postcard from Stedman Bros., this one a novelty card
with an attractive silk heart.
The Figure 4 postcard is a novelty postcard from Stedman
Bros., with beautiful silk heart as part of the design. For those
unfamiliar with the term, novelty postcards are loosely defined
as those cards made from exotic materials like leather,
wood, aluminum or birch bark, or that contain fancy items such
as feathers, metallic pins, special fabrics or even human hair.
The idea was obviously to create something unique or artsy
to grab the purchasers attention. And it sure must have
worked as dealer tables always seem to have a box or two of novelty
With respect to Stedman Bros., this publishers most
popular novelty cards seem to be those with fancy metallic pins
attached to them. The silk heart postcard by the way is attractive
enough to fetch about $10 at a show.
This Valentine postcard with a 23 Skidoo Cupid was
published by the McCoy Printing Company of Moncton, New Brunswick.
Finally, not every Valentine postcard has to be fancy to
be attractive. There is something about the cartoon Cupid on
the Figure 5 card that made me pick it up for a toonie at a show
many years ago.
The drawing isn't in colour, there's no artist signature
and I haven't quite figured out the meaning of the 23 Skidoo!
(i.e., Im outta here!) in the caption.
The publisher, the McCoy Printing Company of Moncton, is
better known as a producer of patriotic and heraldic postcards
so this little card is unusual at every turn.
Although some collectors actively seek cupids, cherubs and
the like on antique postcards, my specialty is the patriotic
stuff. So why is it in my collection? I guess that in every hobby
involving collectibles, sometimes you purchase something whimsical
just for the heck of it.
And my whimsical purchases now fill five albums.
Michael J. (Mike) Smith is an RMC graduate (Class of '77)
and ex-naval officer who has been an avid collector of Canadiana
for most of his life. His current passion is collecting and writing
about Canadian antique postcards. He is currently working on
his eighth postcard handbook. Visit postcard-directory.com/mikesmithbooks