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The Language of Valentines

Nancy Rosin probably fell in love with Valentines when she was a kid passing them out at school. Now, married with children and a 10,000-piece collection of Victorian Valentines and other ephemera and vice president of the National Valentine Collectors Association, the Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, resident makes her own reproductions of Victorian cards.

“I’m trying to revive the beauty and romance that was in those Victorian cards but in a contemporary format,” she says. Valentines day was always a secret, anonymous holiday early on. Before there was a universal postal system, the recipient had to pay and fathers often refused to receive valentines for their daughters.

She adheres photocopies of special cards them to antique lace paper of 20th-century vintage or fine handmade Italian cardstock and embellishes with ribbons and German glitter made of silver and glass.

Rosin opened her online business doors to Victorian Treasury about 10 years ago after people began hounding her for pieces of her collection. So she got to work and began making reproductions and offers them for sale online and in stores around the country.

“With modern cards, if you look on the card racks now, it’s difficult to find something that really expresses sentiment. Some of them are pretty caustic and pitiful. I wanted to make things that people would want to give,” she says. “Handmade cards are expensive – mine are made by me at my worktable.” Her cards range from $10 to $14 on vintage paper. She also sells kits to make your own Valentines or Easter cards.

Destiny sealed Rosin’s fate at age 7 when she made her mother a Valentine with her own business logo on the back “as if it were my valentine company. I had that seed planted long ago,” she says.

Collecting started with little die cut scraps that she and her husband found while antiquing.

“Once I discovered they belonged to valentines, I got involved with valentines. I was no longer interested in the scraps. Once I discovered the whole history of valentines, I wanted to elevate them because people always seem to denigrate the valentine as if it’s only a late Victorian, overstuffed, frilly, romantic confection. Maybe I’m working to change that.

“Many were done by many famous artists, so there’s a whole lot of social history. And love is always the constant. It’s so important. It’s survived wars and people would make Valentines. If they were wealthy they would go and buy something fancy. If they weren’t, they would use scraps of found paper, old letters, wallpaper, anything to create something beautiful. It was an emotion that crossed every stratum of society. The personal stories are as exciting as the pieces themselves. I like sharing my things in this way.”

Victorian Treasury: www.victoriantreasury.com

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