Come February, the post office in Valentine, Nebraska, is better known as Cupid’s mailbox. The staff of three clerks—typically enough to serve the city’s 2,800 residents—puts in overtime to fulfill a generations-old Valentine cachet program, stamping a special holiday design onto letters and cards.
It happens with a swift bend in the elbow. A plunge into cherry-red ink coats the stamp evenly before it presses onto a matte envelope, leaving a residue like that of rosy lips on a lucky one’s cheek. One cachet down, nearly 50,000 to go.
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People from around the world send pre-addressed mailings to the post office to get a Valentine's cachet (a stamped design different from a postal cancellation mark) before each piece of mail is sent to its respective destination.
One looks at the sweet cachets and you’ll understand why annual participants span all the way to China. “We’re part of rural America,” says Arlene Paulson, who’s going on her twelfth year as the Valentine postmaster. “The cachet designs are reflective of our Midwest environment.”
Red ink paints scenes of prairie grass and rolling hills, a tribute to the city’s Nebraska Sandhills setting. Phrases like “Nebraska’s Heritage Sweetheart” and “The City of Love” decorate rustic signage in others. The post office adds a new design to its collection every couple of years.
Courtesy of Arlene Paulson.
The program began in the late ’40s, when the then-postmaster had the notion to add a celebratory mark on mail that crossed the Heart City. “It just bloomed,” says Paulson. “Her delivery of spreading pleasantries on love notes has expanded all over.”
Postmaster Arlene Paulson oversees the nearly 50,000 Valentine mailings that come through the Valentine, Nebraska, post office. Photo courtesy of
In recent years, fewer people have sent mail for Valentine cachets—a change Paulson attributes to a younger generation whose messages are often sent through iCloud rather than the mailroom. But she’s confident that even the digital age won’t slow down another 50 years of cachets.
“Putting time into choosing the right card, writing a letter, and then mailing it off to press that cachet on it shows that extra attention you’re giving the people you care about," says Paulson.
“The letter is just a catalyst. The sharing of people’s feelings is perhaps the most important thing.”
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How to Participate:
Prepare a mailing with an address and proper postage. If you're shipping several items, place all articles inside a larger envelope, assuring that each individual letter and the large envelop are addressed and have proper postage. Send the mailing to the Valentine Post Office, 239 North Hall Street, Valentine, NE 69201.
The holiday cachet is in use until February 28. If you want the recipient to get the package before Valentine’s Day, letters need to be sent to the post office within the first week of February.