you have a passion for antiques and collectibles - and writing?
Wayback Times invites you to submit freelance articles for use
in print and on our new web site.
your text submissions
The Wayback Times.
published in The Wayback Times since 1995 have covered a wide
range of interests, from Golliwoggs to toy VW collecting, and
from collecting insulators to hunting old books.
authors of our online selection of articles have included their
e-mail addresses and they are always delighted to hear from other
- Ad Rates / Articles
/ Classified Ads / Editorial
/ Home / Links
- Inside Antiques,
by Robert Reed
- Inside Antiques:
- Mechanical Valentines: Still
- By Robert Reed
While basic valentines have been around for centuries, moving
or mechanical valentines that actually did something were seen
for a relatively short time.
- Today, romantic greetings with moving parts have considerable
appeal with collectors. Typically, one of the leading categories
sought in the field of valentines are mechanicals, along with
black-related themes, advertising, Disney and cartoon characters,
transportation, and three-dimensionals.
- Commercial valentines, colorful but still, were being produced
in significant numbers by the 1840s in the United States. For
decades, most people had crafted their own valentines but they
had grown so popular they were profitable.
- In 1848, producer T.W. Strong of New York City advertised:
"Valentines! Valentines! All varieties of valentines imported
and domestic, humorous, silly, comic . . . got up in the most
- By the
end of the 19th century, manufactures in Germany had finally
introduced some selections with movable parts among their many
multi-colored lithographed valentines On occasion, wheels on
carts turned, wings fluttered, or doors and windows opened and
- Valentines with movable parts became slightly more prevalent
early in the 20th century, in part because of the rise of competing
postcards as valentines. They often appeared in connection with
the new century's fascination with transportation themes, such
as airplanes, hot air balloons and motorcars. While the vast
majority of these special cards came from Germany, even England's
legendary Raphael Tuck and Sons produced a few.
- However, the big push for mechanical valentines did not take
place in America until the 1920s.
- While they were in use in previous decades, "it was
not until the 1920s that mechanical valentines were produced
by the thousands," notes Robert Brenner, author of
Valentine Treasury, A Century of Valentine Cards. "Simple
folder-type cards just did not attract the number of buyers as
in previous times."
- Brenner adds, "mechanical cards intrigued the very young
with their animation in a time when moving pictures started talking
and Americans went to the movies every week."
were at least five basic ways in which makers could add 'movement'
to their valentines for an eager public.
- 1 - A simple string (usually red) was extended through the
card. In one example, a squirrel could climb a tree as the string
was gently pulled.
- 2 - Winged fasteners or eyelet's (sometimes merely staples)
were used to attach a two-part valentine allowing one section
to be moved slightly back and forth.
- 3 - A small wheel attached to the back of the valentine with
a metal fastener turned to give the appearance of 'blinking'
- 4 - A paper tab extended through the valentine and caused
parts to slide in and out when moved from side to side.
- 5 - Printed bars were slotted into a section of the valentine
creating movement when a tab was slightly shifted. In one playing
card-related card, the moving bars changed the image of the Ace
of Hearts into the Queen of Hearts.
- Clearly the mechanical valentine market of the early 1920s,
like the rest of the valentine market, was dominated by German
manufacturers. Typically, such cards were relatively larger than
others and cleverly designed. However, as the decade unfolded
more and more American makers sought to take advantage of the
popularity of 'moving' valentines.
- In 1927,
the Beistle Company, also known for paper products saluting other
holidays, had a number of mechanical valentines on the market,
including one with two children on an airplane promising, "we'll
fly to the sky, oh how divine. If you will be My Valentine."
- Other American makers from the late 1920s well into the 1930s
included the Auburn Post Card Company, Louis Katz of New York,
Carrington Company of Chicago, the Rochester Lithograph Company
and Steiner Litho Co.
- However, the vast majority of mechanical valentines produced
during this 'golden era' of extensive production and distribution
were not marked by makers in Germany or America. Small type on
the front simply identified them as made in Germany, or made
in the USA.
- Many of the smaller-sized mechanical valentines were popular
with school children during the 1930s. They were produced in
both countries and competition kept them relatively inexpensive.
A specialty catalog of 1937 noted a selection of valentines "with
movable parts and bright colors" for around three cents
each. Most were five to six inches in height. Larger mechanicals,
meanwhile, were still readily available but at considerably higher
- Mechanical valentines from both countries continued to be
available in the American market into the early 1940s and the
outbreak of World War II. There were cars where the roof when
up and down, cats with moving tails and eyes, children on unicycles,
traffic cops with moving arms and all the rest.
- A few mechanicals could still be found in the late 1940s,
but for the most part they had been come too costly to produce
as school children (a major consumer market) opted for the 'still'
valentines, which were sold in packets of a dozen or more.
- Despite moving parts made only of paper, and fleeting popularity
of a few decades, mechanical valentines can still be found in
quality condition. Those that survived were obviously saved generations
ago because of such a 'moving' message from that special someone.
- Headquarters of the National Valentine Collectors Association
is PO Box 1303, Santa Ana, CA 92702. The group publishes a newsletter
and conducts mail-order auctions.
- Recommended reading: Valentine Treasury, A Century of Valentine
Cards, by Robert Brenner (Schiffer Publishing).
- Photo 1 - Airplane valentine, 1927 Beistle Company,
- Photo 2 - Cat's tail moves in mechanical valentine,
back slotted, stapled, ca 1930s, unmarked by maker
- Photo 3: Traffic officer's arms move up and down,
1930s mechanical valentine
- Photo 4 - Trolley car mechanical valentine, eyelet
allows figure's arms to move. Made in USA, circa 1930s.
- Robert Reed has written on antiques and collectibles for
more than two decades. He has also authored 15 books, including
his recently released Antiques and Collectible Dictionary, available
- Return to
top of page
- This Is Livin' Publishing ©
- 581 8th Line West, RR1 Hastings,
ON, K0L 1Y0
- Phone/Fax: 705-696-1833