The world's oldest Valentine's Day card, which was sent to a woman in Aylesbury 230 years ago, has sold for more than 36 times its estimated value at auction today (Thursday).
The card, which dates back to between 1790 and 1810 went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire today (Valentine's Day).
The message was sent to a woman called ‘Ann’, at Hartwell House just outside Aylesbury.
Following a battle involving two phone bidders and internet bidders from Europe and America, the centuries old message of love secured a hammer price of £5,800.
When buyer’s premium and VAT are added the total price paid will be £7,192.
The card was brought by phone bidder Jakki Brown, 54, from London, a keen collector of greetings cards who said she fell in love with it because of its 'historical significance'.
Jakki is editor and co-owner of London’s Progressive Greetings, official journal of the Greeting Cards Association.
She is joint general secretary of the Greetings Cards Association which this year celebrates this anniversary.
Jakki was delighted to land the card at the auction saying: "I was convinced I would be outbid.
"I was so nervous about the sale and 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."
“For me, this Valentine is a wonderful example of an enduring British tradition. I will never sell it.”
Jakki says she plans to treasure this historic Valentine's card alongside another collector’s item in her possession - in 2005 she bought the first ever commercially produced Christmas card that Sir Henry Cole published in 1843.
The Valentine, which dates back to the reign of Mad King George III, is a piece of folded paper.
On the front is a drawing of hearts and a dove carrying a sealed envelope.
Although the paper is damaged and torn in places, the handwritten declaration of love on it is still intact after all these years.
The front of the message 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 was discovered by Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers and a familiar face on BBC TV programmes Bargain Hunt and Celebrity Antiques Road Trip.
It was among a collection of around 200 mainly Victorian and Georgian greetings cards which belonged to the late Lawrence Randle, a keen philatelist and card collector who died at the age of 88 in 2009.
His son Oliver Randle, 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.”
Auctioneer Charles 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.”
Other Valentines from the same private collection will be sold in Hansons spring fine art library auction on April 1.
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