Old love conquered all today when ‘the world’s oldest Valentine’s card’ went under the hammer and fetched £7,192, way over the expected selling price.
The message of love, which dates back to around 1790, was auctioned this morning (14 February) by Hansons Auctioneers in Etwell, Derbyshire.
The successful bidder was Jakki Brown, co-owner of Progressive Greetings who held her nerve as a flurry of escalating bids were made from all over the world.
“I can’t tell you how happy I feel to know that this significant greeting card, which is such a wonderful example of an enduring British tradition, will remain within our industry,” she said. Jakki also owns the first ever commercially produced Christmas card, published by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. “I have now doubled my historic greeting card collection to two items!”
Though historic card, which dates back to the reign of Mad King George III, may be simple in format in that it is effectively a piece of folded paper, but it carries a deep declaration of love and poignancy.
In keeping with the types of messages that would have been sent during the Jane Austen era, the front of the message features the word ‘Love’ above sketches of hearts and a dove carrying a sealed envelope.
The message on the front reads: “Farewell you sweet and turtle dove. On you alone, I fixed my love. And if you never can be mine. I never can no comfort find!”
Inside, a handwritten verse reads:
‘Life they say is but a span
Let’s be happy while we can
Life is short then don’t decline
Therefore make your choice today
Let me pray thee to be mine
Oh my dear sweet Valentine
You are not sure my dearest dear
Of a Valentine next year
Pray thee answer by a line
If you will be my Valentine.’
The card, which was folded prior to being posted, was sent to ‘Ann’ who lived at Hartwell House in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
This special Valentine’s card was discovered by Charles Hanson, owner of the auctioneers, when the celebrated auctioneer (who makes regular appearance on TV shows, such as Bargain Hunt and Celebrity Antiques Road Trip) was looking through a collection of over 200 mainly Victorian and Georgian greeting cards, which belonged to the late Lawrence Randle, a keen philatelist and card collector who died at the age of 88 in 2009.
The collection (the rest of which is to be sold at auction by Hansons in the next two months) was taken to Hanson’s Auctioneers by Lawrence’s son Oliver, a retired computer service manager from Newbury. Explaining how his father had amassed his collection: “My father collected most of these cards in the UK between 1949 and 1990 before moving to South Africa on his retirement.
Throughout his adult life he visited many towns and took great pleasure in finding items of interest, overlooked by others, in large boxes of unsorted cards.”
The initial intention was that the entire collection was to be sold in Hanson’s Spring Library Auction, but Charles Hanson felt it was only right to elevate the special Valentine treasure. “In the name of true romance, I wanted to give lovestruck people the opportunity to bid for it on February 14. It must be the world’s oldest Valentine still in existence that’s available to buy. It’s a fitting way to honour everlasting love.”
Top: This Valentine message that dates back to 1790-1810.