Archive for Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kovel’s Antiques: Calling cards not unlike Facebook requests

December 5, 2010


I bought an album of Victorian calling cards at a flea market. I would like to know more about the history and tradition of calling cards.

Long before people sent “friend requests” on Facebook, social contacts were made by leaving a calling card or visiting card at the home of the person you wanted to visit. Visiting cards were first used in China in the 15th century. They were used by French royalty in the 17th century and by the well-to-do in Europe in the early 19th century. Early cards were hand-lettered with just the name and title of the owner, and possibly the days or hours they were “at home.” Women’s cards were slightly larger than men’s cards. Special messages could be conveyed by folding down a corner of the card. Folding the top left meant the card was delivered by the person wanting to visit, not by a servant. A top-right fold meant “congratulations,” a bottom-right sent condolences and bottom-left signaled “farewell.” Calling cards were popular in the United States during Victorian times and often were collected and pasted into scrapbooks. They were larger than earlier cards and often featured colorful flowers, fancy borders, attached scraps and fringes. There were strict rules of etiquette concerning calling cards. If the person who received a card wanted to receive the visitor, he sent his own card back. If the person leaving the card didn’t get a card back, it meant the person called on didn’t want to see her. (Something like having your “friend request” ignored on Facebook.)

Q: We live in a rural area in Arizona and have found more than 200 Arizona license plates from 1930. Some have a “P” for pneumatic and “S” for solid tires. What are these worth?

A: Common license plates usually sell for about $10 apiece or less. Yours are old enough to have more value. Vanity plates, license plates with a series of letters or numbers that spell something, are also worth more. The Automobile License Plate Collectors Association, an organization for collectors, holds meets throughout the country. For more information, visit


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