A few years back, I guided POME readers through the low-effort branded hell of children’s discount valentines — the leftover junk in the clearance rack in the days and weeks after Valentine’s Day. Closing out the month of February, I am once again happy to guide you through the delightful and often bewildering highs and lows some unlucky kid found inside of their classroom Valentine’s Day shoebox.
Back in 2016, the main takeaway from my deep dive into the Children’s Valentines Industrial Complex was how little effort merchandisers put into these cards. Kids don’t care about puns or clever copywriting, right? They’re tearing these cards open in search of That Good Shit: semi-decent candy. If your valentine didn’t come with a package of Sweet Tarts nestled inside, it didn’t matter. But if your mom was totally mean and unfair and refused to spend $12 getting enough Kit Kats for your entire class, the next best thing you could ask her to do was shell out for cards with a really popular cartoon character on them — you know, to show that you were a cool and normal kid and not just that weirdo who spends every recess goading the librarians into giving you non-age appropriate romance novel reading recommendations.
Despite my cynical expectations, discount children’s valentines have generally softened in our current hellscape, rather than becoming the final vehicle for retired 22 year old Vine Stars I thought they’d be. (In all seriousness, I thought the whole clearance rack would be nothing but Minions, as far as the eye could see). Friends, I spent roughly $9 on discount valentines and instead of sifting through banal, semi-relevant brand plugs, I found kind, gentle puns, pudgy dragons with tiny wings, and quality, top-shelf Spider-Man erasers. Gone are yesterday’s children’s valentines that almost tried but didn’t. Take my hand, gentle reader, and voyage with me into the sea of children’s valentines that actually mostly sort of tried.
Valentines listed below are ranked by how much they tried, from least to most.
Star Wars Valentines
Truly scraping the bottom of the barrel are this year’s Star Wars valentines. I don’t know what I was expecting — but after the immense success of The Last Jedi, I didn’t expect Disney to slash their children’s discount valentines budget. These Star Wars valentines tossed out every redeeming quality of their 2016 counterparts (snazzy Captain Phasma-centric art; thick cardstock) but kept the bewildering copy. Three Words, My Valentine!
Galaxy’s Easiest Who Wore It Best:
- How dare they replace PHASMA with ANYONE much less this REDSHIRT what are you DOING, DISNEY?????
- But, it’s not all bad — thankfully Disney included the Content We All Crave in that they rounded out their collection of Valentine’s Day Hot Boy Trading Cards:
“Here’s a Hot Boy Trading Card, Secret Crush” was definitely in my grade-school secret crush playbook and it can be in yours, too, for the low cost of $1.79.
Minions Valentines, Naturally
Did you honestly think you could escape minions???????
If so, well, you’re not entirely wrong — these are technically Despicable Me 3 valentines, starring this guy that I’m sure children love.
- I’ve only talked to like 2 children in the past 3 years and even a moldering old spinster like me knows that no child has ever wanted a tattoo of this guy.
- I’m not entirely sure what World Valentine Domination is but if it means saturating classrooms across the world with this bullshit card then mission accomplished I guess.
- VAGUELY BRANDED WORDS, MY VALENTINE
On the other hand, That One Horny Minion had a strong presence this year:
These moves, once seen, can never been unseen.
Non-Branded Dragon Valentines
Not a lot to say about these cards except that we have crossed a threshold of trying — from this point on, the discount children’s valentines are doing a lot more work than anyone could reasonably expect from them.
- I am rooting for these valentines. They’re just cute dragons. They’re not connected with some new show or movie — just endearing, scaly friends.
- The award for “almost finished your pun but got tired and had to take a nap halfway in” goes to Stop Dragon Your Feet and Be My Valentine.
- What role does a valentine play in a child’s life????? Has anyone ever had a valentine???? Does one identify one’s self as a valentine??? or???????
- I would not have appreciated this chubby little go-getter on the left as a child.
Horsin’ Around Valentines
- This box of holographic horse valentines almost made me like horses, so well done, Horsin’ Around valentines.
- Seriously, picture it: you’re petting that strongo horse with the tiny head in the middle and braiding his silky mane when a butterfly lands on his nose, startling him! He kicks you in the head! And you’re done forever, like Don Draper’s dad!!!!
- Anyway the horse valentines didn’t try but also they didn’t need to. They managed to cram three pictures of horses onto a surface the size of 1.5 stamps and if I was an eight-year-old Horse Girl™, that’d be enough for me.
- Spidey valentines are trying slightly harder in 2018.
- Swinging subtext: an inside joke for the parents at home??
- All that I ask for in a valentine card pun is some relevance to the source material and these Spider-Man cards delivered.
Cute Animals Valentines
I opened the Cute Animal Valentines box with a heavy heart. How could one fly this close to the sun without plummeting into the sea? Puns that generally reflect the subject of the art! Cute animals!! Stickers??? Who could possibly want more from this life?????
Holo Pets Valentines
- This picture above is an entire sheet of these cards — a slice of pure perfection.
- The manufacturer of these valentines included the right mix of regular-cute to weird-cute pets. Look at that duder on the far right!!! That smol, confus kitten!!!!
Bless us, one and all!!!!
As I voyaged deeper and deeper into this forest of children’s discount valentines, I learned a valuable lesson: everyone is trying a lot harder in 2018. If discount valentines can make themselves open and soft despite the unfeeling hellscape we’re all struggling through right now, so can I. So can you! I’ve never felt more open to rekindling my friendships and celebrating the people I love most — especially now that I am armed with 143 children’s discount valentines that express that love through holographic steeds galloping into a sunset. Gallop into your own sunsets! Achieve World Valentine’s Domination each and every day. And most importantly: