Q: I've inherited a huge collection of old and antique valentines. How can I find out more about them and their values? Is there a knowledgeable source I can write to?
A: Those who collect the sweet, saucy, silly and sentimental valentines from other days belong to the National Valentine Collectors Association. It can be reached through its founder, Evalene Pulati, Box 1404, Santa Ana, Calif. 92702. Annual membership is $16, which includes a quarterly newsletter. For a sample copy of the newsletter, send $5. Also available from Ms. Pulati is her "Illustrated Valentine Price Guide," $12.95 postpaid; or phone her at (714) 547-1355 for valentine-related information.
Among sought-after old valentines are handmade ones dating from the 18th and early 19th Centuries, as well as beautiful French and English valentines embellished with real lace, gold paper, pressed flowers and cut-out hearts. The first mass-producer of American valentines was Esther Howland of Worcester, Mass., the daughter of a stationer. In the 1840s Howland enlisted young women of her acquaintance and established the first assembly line for the manufacture of valentines. Howland's father began peddling the valentines to neighboring towns, and her business venture became a commercial success with an annual sales volume of $75,000. Some of Howland's valentines sold for as much as $35, an astronomical price for that day. Today original Esther Howland valentines are eagerly sought by collectors. The earliest examples are marked with a little red H, while later ones are embossed N.E.V. Co., which stands for the New England Valentine Co. Howland, who never married, remained in business until around 1880.
Other important valentine makers included Louise Prang; George C. Whitney; Dobbs, Dobbs and Kidd; Kershaw; Windsor; and Mansell. Often the names of makers were stamped or embossed on the face of the card in small letters or were embossed somewhere on the paper lace, such as on a leaf, flower or scroll.
Q: How can I check out the value of some Japanese wood block prints?
A: Write to the Oriental Art Society of Chicago, in care of Chase Gilmore, 108 N. Halsted St., Chicago, Ill. 60606; phone (312) 829-2848. The society, now in its 31st year, is made up of those who want to learn more about Oriental antiques and collectibles. Annual membership and monthly newsletter are $25 per individual or $45 per family.
Descriptions and values of Japanese wood block prints are listed in "Oriental Antiques & Art: An Identification and Value Guide," by Sandra Andacht, available for $20.45 postpaid from Wallace-Homestead Book Co., One Chilton Way, Radnor, Pa. 19089; phone (800) 345-1214. Ms. Andacht publishes a bimonthly Orientalia Journal to educate collectors. Write to her at Box 94, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363, enclosing a stamped, addressed envelope, for information.
Q: Where can I sell a set of Haviland china with 12 place settings?
A: Send a description of the china along with a photocopy of the front and back of a plate (enclose an addressed, stamped envelope for a reply or offer) to Marian Zickefoose at Galerie de Porcelaine Haviland Dealers and Matching Service, 526 Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn, Ill. 60137; phone (708) 858-9494. The shop buys, sells and matches French and American Haviland china. "Haviland," by Jean d'Albis, lavishly illustrated with color photos of old and new Haviland patterns, is $35 postpaid from the shop.
Q: Where can I find old miniature doll house furniture and accessories?
A: Write to Shirley's Dollhouse at either of its two locations, Sale Barn Square, 971 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, Ill. 60090, phone (708) 537-1632; or Chicago Riverfront Antique Mart, 2929 N. Western Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60618, phone (312) 252-2500.
Q: Can you put me in touch with collectors of novelty perfume bottles?
A: Collectors of all types of perfume bottles, real crystal to dime store variety, belong to the Perfume & Scent Bottle Collectors. This organization offers an annual membership and quarterly newsletter for $15. Write to the Perfume & Scent Bottle Collectors in care of Joyce Geeser, Box 6965, Rockford, Ill. 61125-6965.
Q: Could you please provide me with an address for collectors of Maytag items?
A: Write to the Maytag Collector's Club, 3944 Cougar Place, Modesto, Calif. 95356. Membership is $10 annually. To receive a membership list, send a double-stamped, addressed business-size envelope. You may phone the president, Dale Rawdin, at (217) 352-6615 for information regarding Maytag items.
Anita Gold can be reached by writing Anita Gold, Maryland Living, The Sun, Baltimore 21278. Selected questions will appear in her column. The volume of mail makes individual replies impossible. When writing sources listed in this column, enclose an addressed, stamped envelope for replies.