Bryant is an Alexandria antique collector with a greeting card collection that includes about 2,000 antique and vintage valentines.

When did you start collecting valentines, and why?

I just started collecting paper back when I was in high school when it was really cheap, and you could build up a big collection on a dollar-a-week allowance. And then I was at a yard sale once, and the lady there had a trunk full of valentines, and she sold me all the valentines from the people she didn't like. ... After that I just kind of kept buying more valentines and other cards.

Why do you like them so much?

They're just really pretty cards, and some of them are very delicate, some of them are funny. And I just like paper. I like the designs and the verses, especially the handmade ones.

How old are the cards in your collection?

The oldest one that's really made it is one from 1854, and it has a watermark on it. ... The earlier ones were plain sheets of paper that were made like paper lace, and then they had layers of little tiny snippets of flowers and cupids and things glued on top. ... And then they would have a little tiny verse added to it in pen, possibly not by the person that sent it, but I think somebody who made the card. The one from 1854 says, 'Alas, I dodged too late.' And that's all it says on the card. It's not signed or anything.

Some people are kind of cynical about Valentine's Day. Do you have feelings about that -- is it too commercialized?

No, it's a good chance once a year to do something nice for somebody. And sometimes it's a tradition. I got a box of valentines once that a grade school teacher had kept, that her students had sent her over a period of probably about 10 years.

?- April Burbank