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Heart-in-mouth auction: 18th century valentine card sells for £7k

ONE of the world’s oldest surviving Valentine’s Day cards, found in a pile of letters, has fetched thousands at auction — 36 times its estimate.

The 230-year-old paper love token features a picture of a dove carrying a letter in its beak and hearts with cupid’s arrows through them.

Addressed to a woman called Ann, the handwritten 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!’

Loving gesture: The delicate valentine, held by Hansons’ Helen Smith PICTURES: SWNS

The card dates back to around 1790, during the era of King George III, and was discovered in a pile of letters and cards in a private collection.

It went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbyshire, today where it smashed its estimate of £200-£300 — selling for more than £7,000.

The card was bought by London-based businesswoman Jakki Brown, 54, who fended off interest from across Europe and America.

She is editor and co-owner of London’s Progressive Greetings, a trade magazine for the greeting card industry. Miss Brown is also editorial director and joint managing director of Max Publishing and joint general secretary of the Greetings Cards Association.

She said: ‘I’m so happy. I was convinced I would be outbid. I was so nervous about the sale, I hardly slept the night before.

‘I’ve bought this because I really believe in the art of card sending and to buy this on Valentine’s Day makes it extra special.

‘I will use it to promote the art of sending greetings cards. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Greeting Card Association.

‘For me, this valentine is a wonderful example of an enduring British tradition. I will never sell it.’

Inside the card, the 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.

It was discovered by auctioneer Charles Hanson among a collection of Victorian and Georgian greeting cards belonging to the late Lawrence Randle, a keen philatelist.

Mr Hanson said: ‘Romance isn’t dead — it’s flourishing, especially in the heart of Derbyshire.

‘It’s wonderful to know this valentine is set to be delivered to a woman who truly appreciates its deep significance.

‘It’s one of the oldest valentine cards in the world. I decided to sell it on February 14 to honour everlasting love.’

Mr Randle’s son Oliver, a retired computer service manager from Newbury, said: ‘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.’

In Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be celebrated in the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th century, friends and lovers of all social classes exchanged small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.