Question: In a recent column, you touched on comic valentines and their history. My collection concentrates on the more serious valentines that have been produced in this country. I was wondering what individuals and dealers look for when evaluating a collection.--A.N.
Answer: First and foremost, collectors search for handmade valentines, especially if they can be dated back a couple of centuries. But such valentines are rare.
Next, commercially produced 19th-Century valentines are in demand. All the better, one dealer said, if the valentines of that era were produced in Great Britain, because of the intricate printing designs that were used in that country.
From about the mid-18th Century forward, the dealer said, it really doesn't make much difference if the valentines were printed in Europe or the United States. Instead, value is based on condition, illustrations by well-known artists and the creativity of the printing firms.
For example, 18th-Century valentines produced by the Pennsylvania Dutch are sought after for their meticulous paper patterns--such as painstakingly sticking a pin through paper hundreds, if not thousands, of times to make the paper appear like lace.
It's believed that the first United States manufacturer of valentines on any scale was one Esther Howland, who in the mid-18th Century established a production facility in her hometown of Worcester, Mass. Her valentines, which are marked with her name on the back, are understandably eagerly sought after by collectors.
Other names collectors look for in American valentines are George Whitney, Jotham Taft and T. W. Strong.
Collectors should take care when they store old, fragile valentines, because much of their value is determined by their condition. Definitely don't paste them to paper, because you'll have too much difficulty removing the paper backing should you want to sell them.
Q: As crazy as this sounds, I collect cookie cutters. How far back can you date the first cutters?--C.P.
A: That's not so crazy. There are numerous individuals throughout the country who collect items associated with the early American kitchen and food production, including cookie cutters.
In the late 19th Century, American factories began producing cookie cutters that resembled hand-cut varieties of earlier periods. During the 1920s through the 1950s, plastic and aluminum cutters were introduced.
Handcrafted cutters, particularly in the shape of animals, can sell for $50 or more. Manufactured cutters sell for only a few dollars.
Collectors should attempt to acquaint themselves with early versions so they can spot which were handmade, and hence more valuable.
The American Society of Camera Collectors plans its Spring 1987 Camera and Photographica Show for March 8 at Machinists Hall, 2600 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission is $4, with $1 discount coupons available at many camera stores.
More than 100 tables of cameras, movie equipment and related items will be for sale or swap.
"This show is an opportunity for anyone to bring in old cameras or photo equipment and have every item explained and appraised free," wrote Gene Lester, the society's president.
For further information, call Lester between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (818) 769-6160.