A vintage Valentine’s Day: Declarations of love, with a bit of history
At the best of times, love lasts a long time, and to underscore the notion, some Long Islanders believe that displays of affection should at least have a little story behind them. This is certainly the case for avid collector of vintage ceramics, Walter Dworkin, 77, of Westbury, who is the author of three books on collecting and has been accumulating antique pieces celebrating all major holidays for around 45 years.
His substantial Valentine’s Day assemblage includes around 100 figurines, music and trinket boxes, vases, candy dishes, salt and pepper shakers and even a bank which, when a coin is placed inside , two coiled figures collide and kiss. “They depict a bygone era,” says Dworkin. “They’re a walk down memory lane, and I think, as a gift, that’s a very lovely thing to give someone today – something that’s half a century old. They’re often colorful and interesting and figurines are meant to be given to a loved one.They are auspicious.
Dworkin’s collection focuses on items made in Japan and, in some ways, symbolizes better times in the United States, he explains. “In the 1950s and 1960s, we were just coming out of the Korean War, real estate was booming, especially in places like Levittown – money had been tight and suddenly people had more in their pockets and a bright look to the future.”
His pieces, especially those from this era, “were done so intricately,” he says, pointing to the appeal of the “art of spaghetti” textural technique used at the time. “A lot of them are great gifts,” he says. And they can be valuable too, adds Dworkin, who doesn’t typically sell his stuff but says similar products can be found in online marketplaces for $39 to $250. He says, “They’re very hot right now.”
At Wit & Whim, an eclectic gift shop in Port Washington, owners Krissy Harper and Jacquelyn Conte scour estate sales and antique shows for sometimes kitschy, sometimes romantic Valentine’s Day gifts from ages ago. decades.
“The symbol of Valentine’s Day is love,” says Harper. “So a gift that’s unique to someone you love, that shows emotion or affection, has special meaning when it’s from years past.” Here, customers will discover funky trinket trays, boxes featuring Victorian court scenes, gold-edged porcelain plates with loving sentiments and even a darling Cupid brooch to celebrate the holidays.
There are plenty of last minute Valentine’s shoppers at Rosie’s Vintage in Huntington, where owner Thea Morales says her customers can be very creative as in the case of a gentleman who bought a head vase classic 1930s woman’s hat and filled it to the brim with flowers. There are little tokens of affection such as fancy 70s-80s buttons that carry cute phrases like “I’m crazy about you” and “I think you’re hot, Valentine!” and sell for $2 to $5.
There are cute old candy boxes, planters and loads of romantic Valentine’s Day cards from the early 1900s ($2-$4) that express sweet sentiments and can be mailed or attached to another gift. “Someone who loves vintage or grew up when those things were popular would appreciate gifts like these. They’re nostalgic and heartwarming,” Morales says. “Someone has loved these things before. What better way to show that your love will last a lifetime, but with a gift from a lifetime ago?”