Pluck a heartstring or two with a historical hand-tinted photocard from 1900s, where suited men with perfectly parted hair gaze at coiffed women in frilly frocks surrounded by a shower of pink flowers. Or pick out a pair of tiny paper hands, holding little cards inscribed with sweet sayings like "I live on love for thee." Our favorite? An embroidered souvenir postcard from the 1950's which entices you to lift the billowing maroon skirt of a Spanish senorita standing on the seashore, under which you'll find a little pair of lace panties. Scandalous!
If you're searching for a more conventional card, an extensive selection of the classic heart-covered red and pink greetings can be found at Marina stationary shop Union Street Papery (2162 Union, SF. 415-563-0200, www.unionstreetpapery.com). But owner Stacey Bush has several modern valentines for less formal loves as well. A card whose cover says "I like hanging out with you" and whose interior qualifies "naked" will let your current casual hook-up partner know you'd like more of the same.
Some emotions are so intense that they can be handled only by the eyes of your lover. Invest in the Secret Love Letters Box from Chronicle Books to secure your most sensuous sentiments. Complete with both regular and invisible ink, old-fashioned nibbed pens, thick cream stationary, and tales of star-crossed lovers to refer to, this correspondence kit is worthy of a Romeo and Juliet romance. Pick one up at Mission Street print shop Autumn Express (2071 Mission, SF. 415-824-2222, www.autumnexpress.com).
HOT FOR TEACHER
Peruse some of the tissue-thin vintage schoolhouse greetings resting among the delicate dishes and colorful aprons at Russian Hill's old-new emporium Molte Cose (2044 Polk, SF. 415-921-5374). Retired San Francisco schoolteacher Ms. Bonar sold the lot of valentines that students had given her from 1920 to 1960 to proprietor Teresa Nittolo. One of the more suggestive selections shows a pudgy blonde boy, apple in hand, smiling and standing over the words "I may not be your teacher's pet, but you're my pet teacher." Another has a rosy-cheeked girl holding up the ruffle of her skirt, asking, "How can you resist my endearing young charms?" There is something irresistible if not odd about these sweet, simple valentines.
More Valentine's shopping and style ideas, plus Laura Peach's "Objects of Obsession" feature on our Pixel Vision blog