Girl looking at valentine card (© Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)
Jasie Sharp, 10, ponders her Valentine's Day cards at an elementary school party in Ventura, California. (© Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Each year on February 14, Americans, like many others around the world, celebrate love and friendship by exchanging cards, flowers, candy and other gifts.

Although the origins of Valentine’s Day are obscure, today it signifies both romantic and platonic love. Here are popular items Americans give to friends or lovers on Valentine’s Day:

Greeting cards

The exchange of written notes on Valentine’s Day began in the 15th century, with handmade valentine cards appearing in the 1700s. By the early 1800s, as the use of printing presses expanded, the United Kingdom produced commercial valentines, according to Time magazine.

Historical Valentine's Day cards by Esther Howland (Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society)
Historical Valentine’s Day cards by Esther Howland (Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society)

In the 1840s, the magazine reports, Esther Howland of Massachusetts came across valentines imported from England and thought she could make equally beautiful cards for less. Howland’s father, who owned a stationery business, helped her.

Howland’s artistic designs established commercial Valentine’s Day cards in the U.S. Today, Americans exchange 145 million valentines each year, according to the Greeting Card Association.


On Valentine’s Day, Americans overwhelmingly choose to send roses, according to the Society of American Florists.

Worker surrounded by red roses while packing flowers for shipping (© Fernando Vergara/AP)
A worker packs roses to be shipped to the U.S. ahead of Valentine’s Day at Colibri Flowers in El Rosal, Colombia. (© Fernando Vergara/AP)

Red roses, signifying passion, are the top choice. Pink roses, representing gratitude and joy, are the next most popular choice.

Most flowers sold in the United States come from the Netherlands, Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya, according to The New York Times. The U.S. Census Bureau cited the value of imports of all bouquet-cut flowers in the United States at $203 million for February 2022.

Conversation hearts

In the U.S., conversation hearts are the most popular non-chocolate candy for valentines. The colorful candies can be traced to the invention of a cutting machine in the 1840s by a Boston pharmacist named Oliver Chase, according to the food-focused Allrecipes website. Chase first used his machine to make medicinal lozenges but later turned to making scalloped candies called conversation hearts or sweethearts.

Close-up photo of heart-shaped candy (© Charles Krupa/AP)
Candy is prepared for packaging at the New England Confectionery Company in Revere, Massachusetts. (© Charles Krupa/AP)

In the 1860s, Chase’s brother Daniel developed a way to stamp words on the candies using red vegetable dye. By 1901, the candies took on their familiar heart shape, with messages such as “Be Mine” and “True Love.” Spangler Candy, based in Ohio, acquired the rights to the candies in 2019.


Chocolate remains the most popular edible gift for Valentine’s Day in the United States.

Woman holding up heart-shaped box of chocolates (© Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald/Getty Images)
A store employee holds a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates at Au Chocolat in Boston. (© Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald/Getty Images)

Taste of Home magazine says the top five brands purchased for Valentine’s Day in the U.S. are:

  1. Lindt, headquartered in Switzerland under the name Lindt & Sprüngli.
  2. Godiva, the Belgian gourmet chocolatier.
  3. Ghirardelli, founded in California by an Italian immigrant, and now owned by Lindt & Sprüngli.
  4. Hershey, an American brand based in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
  5. Dove, a Chicago-based chocolatier owned by Mars Incorporated.

Postage stamps

In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service began issuing love-themed postage stamps in time for Valentine’s Day. Pop artist Robert Indiana designed the first stamp in the series, which was fittingly released in Philadelphia, known as “the city of brotherly love.”

Stamps featuring kitten and puppy with heart
The U.S. Postal Service issued two new “love” stamps for 2023, one featuring a kitten and the other a puppy with their front paws resting atop a heart.

New “love” stamps — featuring flowers, Victorian lace, cherubs, swans or candy hearts — are issued regularly, and while these stamps are still linked to Valentine’s Day, the Postal Service encourages customers to use them for other sentimental occasions too.