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Christmas at the Auction Room

by Northern Life

Adam Partridge looks at some of the more festive items from the auction room.

Christmas is a magical time, and, with any celebration, collectables have always been produced to mark the celebration. Many are used seasonally to decorate our homes. Some are made to be given as gifts.

Adam Partridge

It is said that the first recorded celebration was in 1038 and was a medieval celebration of the birth of Christ. The festive celebration we know today, celebrated by Christians and non-Christians worldwide, developed at the end of the Victorian period and gathered momentum to the present day.

Many of these items inevitably appear at auction, and I found some interesting items for you.

Starting in the 19th century, Germans made a very basic-looking Christmas tree about one metre high that had candle holders on the tips of the branches, and you can see it is made up of green material wrapped around twisted wire, very much like today’s artificial trees, in the Victorian period they loved novelty so this tree would rotate and had a musical movement. It would have been magical for children in the day, but kids today, I doubt, would have the same enthusiasm, this tree we sold earlier in the year for £160.

19th-century German musical Christmas tree

Imagine being a soldier during the First World War at Christmas, sitting in the trenches, thinking of your loved ones at home. Some were sent gifts that managed to get through, but Princess Mary wanted every sailor and soldier overseas to get a present. She initially intended to pay out of her own money but was convinced to lend her name to a fund far exceeding the initial goal. The gift was a brass tin with her portrait embossed on the front, which contained one ounce of pipe tobacco, 20 cigarettes, a pipe, a tinder lighter, a Christmas card and a photograph. There was an alternative for non-smokers, which contained chocolate. One we sold recently contained the cigarettes, making £100 fully complete.

WWI brass tin showing the portrait of Princess Mary

We cannot talk about Christmas memorabilia without mentioning the ‘Christmas Plate’ sold each Christmas by the top pottery manufacturers. These would be bought and added to a collection of previous years and displayed on the walls, dressers and display cabinets around the house, all dated and mostly with traditional or contemporary festive scenes. These, unfortunately, make very little at auction, and most auctioneers won’t accept them. This Royal Doulton 1977 example can be bought on eBay for around £6.

Royal Doulton 1977 Christmas plate

Nowadays, when thinking of a popular Christmas film, most would think of Elf. It only had a £33 production budget but grossed over £200m worldwide. In 2021, the original Buddy the Elf hero costume was sold by a Hertfordshire auctioneer for £175,000. Movie memorabilia can make big money…maybe it’s time to check in the attic!

Buddy the Elf costume

Everyone at Adam Partridge Auctioneers would like to wish all the readers a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

NorthernLife Nov/Dec 23