The one big problem with the new Sweethearts Conversation Hearts

What would Valentine's Day be without those chatty little candy hearts we've all come to know and love?  (Well, not exactly love, at least not for their taste.) Sweethearts conversation hearts were invented by the Necco candy company, and have no more flavor than their flatter, more taciturn cousins the Necco wafers. 

But we do, however, have nostalgic fondness for them, as well we should, seeing as how they've been around since our great-great-grandparents' time. For many of us, these candies are reminiscent of elementary school. Necco marketing director Aimee Scott told Smithsonian Magazine in a 2011 interview, "Our main market is in classrooms — kids, teachers and moms." That's quite a market, though, seeing as how Necco was then selling more than 8 billion pounds of teeny candy hearts each year, making up a whopping 40 percent of the Valentine candy market. 

At least, that's how things used to be before Sweethearts failed to make an appearance on 2019 store shelves. In 2018, the 150-plus-year-old Necco company went bust and was bought out by Spangler, maker of Dum-Dums (another candy that seemingly owes its existence entirely to the elementary school market). The handover, however, took place too late in the year for the new owners to print up any hearts in time for Valentine's Day (via CNBC). This year, however, conversation hearts are back, but something's missing... like, 97 percent of the conversation.

Why have conversation hearts stopped conversing?

While Spangler may have bought out the Necco company, they did not re-open the shuttered factory once occupied by the iconic New England candy maker. Instead, they trucked all of the equipment from Massachusetts to Ohio, and you know how it goes with moving — some of the stuff got a little banged up en route. One of the pieces of equipment that wasn't working quite right once reassembled was the machine that prints up the sayings on the little hearts. Since the company was well aware that Sweethearts were very much missed during last year's Valentine's season, they opted to go ahead and send the not-so-perfect product to market anyway.

According to CandyStore.com, if you open a box of 2020 Sweethearts, about 65 percent of those hearts will be blank. 24 percent of the hearts will have some sort of unintelligible markings (just wavy lines, perhaps), 8 percent will have partially-printed sayings, while just 3 percent will look like conversation hearts should.

Somehow this makes Sweetheart hearts collectible

Oddly enough, this imperfection is already capturing the interest of candy collectors. The assumption that Spangler will have ironed out the production kinks by 2021, as well as the fact that the flawed 2020 production run was much smaller than in years past, guarantees that these misprinted candies will be quite rare and seen as an interesting anomaly in years to come. 

Hmm, perhaps worth tracking down a box or two, despite the fact that these hearts are less forthcoming than a teenager forced to communicate with their parents. But as Candystore.com says, you better act fast, as supplies are, in fact, quite limited.