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Couple’s card collection full of love


The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Much like a home full of decor Christmas houses in December, Bob and Margy Barrett’s dining room is currently brimming with a Valentine’s Day card collection that started more than 100 years ago.

Neighbors peruse Bob, left, and Margy Barrett’s collection of vintage three-dimensional Valentine’s Day cards from as early as 1901 at the Barrett’s home in Huntington.
(Photo by Anthony Davis)

For about a week every year, the couple displays about 100 cards throughout their dining room in their Huntington home. The cards crowd every flat surface in the room and even hang from the room’s light fixture above.

Fifty more tattered cards sit in a box due to lack of space and to preserve their condition.

Barrett said his family came into possession of the cards about 40 years ago when they were slated to be discarded after a distant relative of his wife passed away.

“At the house, they had already kind of divided who gets what in the house, but there was another pile just full of odds and ends,” he said. “Margy asked, ‘Can I have them?’ and they said, ‘Take them because we were just going to throw them away.’ ”

Inside the box was the collection of cards.

With the cards full of past love visible from the threshold of the Barrett home, the collection could brighten anyone’s day upon entry.

Over the years, Bob Barrett said they’ve had to leave the cards out longer for company’s enjoyment.

“We’ve just sat them out over the period of years,” he said. “It’s been a family custom to sit them out about a week before Valentine’s Day, you know, just for our enjoyment.”

One of the oldest card dates back to 1901, and the collection continued for decades after. The characters on the cards feature males and females of all ages and races. Address envelopes and inscriptions on the cards help pinpoint the year the card is from and who sent it.

Some cards even identify their country of origin. Several from Germany are among the collection. One German made card reads “”Haf you got any sveetheart today? If you’re villing to haf me, I’m villing to stay.”

The Barretts said the cards had been reviewed by an employee of the Huntington Museum of Art, who said they hold some value.

“She looked at them, and she was just shaking her head,” he said. “She said, ‘I have been (into) antique Valentine’s Day cards for a long time, and I have never seen anything like these.’ ”

Some of the cards are flat, while others are three-dimensional. None of the cards lack details, each more elaborate than the last. Some feature lace overlays, while others have complicated flowery designs.

“No one to watch while we are kissing. No one can see while we spoon. Come, take a trip in my aeroplane and we’ll visit the man in the moon,” the card reads.

Reproduction of the cards today would not be profitable, Barrett said he was told, due to their intricate details.

The Barretts use no preservation tactic, other than storing the cards in a box until the sweethearts’ holiday arrives the next year.

Barrett said he believes he could pass the collection on to the Huntington Museum of Art eventually, where they could be enjoyed by more people.

Until then, the card collection will remain a yearly fixture in the Barrett home.

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