For Valentine's Day, a Collector of Hearts

A vintage Valentine, this handpainted cameo-embossed card, bordered with gilded paper, dates to England c. 1840. The handwritten love poem is embellished with delicate paintings of forget-me-nots and the rose, emblems of love and romance.
Nancy Rosin

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
How many Valentines
Are enough for you?

If one Valentine is a treat, how about more than 10,000 of them . . . each a rare gem!

A Victorian-era Valentine in the shape of a fan . . . a lace paper-cut with intricate details . . . even a rotating Valentine that changes colors!

"I started the collection in the early '70's," said Nancy Rosin, a retired New Jersey nurse. "It seemed like a fun thing to do. And I had no idea that it was going to take over my life, and that Valentine's Day was going to be a major part of my life as it is.

Rosin is no ordinary Valentine enthusiast. Whether handmade or manufactured, you might say every piece in her collection has been acquired with love.

"I think you can't collect romantic things unless you're a romantic yourself," she said.

No matter how new or old it is (and she has one dating to 1797), each Valentine is an expression of timeless affection . . .

Like this handmade puzzle-purse Valentine that says: "The ring is round, and hath no end. So is my love, unto thee my dear wife and friend."

One classic Civil War-era Valentine is in a style known as the Soldier's Tent:

"When you lift the flaps of the tent, you see the soldier writing a letter at his desk," Rosin said. "And faintly in the background you see a woman that he must be thinking about. And they usually have a motto on the front that they paste on. Frequently, that motto is: 'Love protects.'"

One appears to be a simple letter, but don't be fooled:

"It's torn from the flyleaf of a book, and the gentleman wrote three times, a poem about Valentine's Day being the morrow. And he signed 'Edward Sangon, 1684.' That's the earliest known piece in America."

Along with familiar Valentines of paper, Nancy Rosin's collection also features Valentines made from very unusual materials.

Like figurines created with Pennsylvania Dutch sugar and wax, while some seashell Valentines journeyed all the way from Barbados.

For Rosin, the value of her collection goes far beyond its physical beauty:

"I've become attached more to what surrounds each story - the fingerprints of love - on every piece," she said. "The people who made them, how they touched them - something so important to these people that they saved them and cherished them so that I could have them, and am obligated to share them with other people, for the next generation as well."

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Tokens of love,
Lasting and true ...

For more info:

• (Nancy Rosin's website)
•  National Valentine Collectors Association
•  The Ephemera Society of America