World's 'humblest' artificial Christmas tree, bought for pennies, sells for more than $4K at auction

ByAmarachi Orie, CNN, CNNWire
Wednesday, December 20, 2023
Artificial tree from 1920s sells for $4,338 at auction
An artificial Christmas tree from 1920, which was originally bought for pennies, just sold for more than $4,300.

Festive magic fueled by nostalgia has been credited for the "astonishing" sale of a Christmas tree, "bought for pennies" more than a century ago, for 3,411 ($4,328) at auction on Friday.

The 31-inch tree, complete with 25 branches, 12 berries and six mini candle holders, was estimated to sell for only 60-80 ($76-$102) at auction house Hansons Auctioneers in the southeastern English county of Oxfordshire. A global bidding battle meant the final result far exceeded this, according to a press release Friday.

"The magic of Christmas lives on! The humblest Christmas tree in the world has a new home and we're delighted for both buyer and seller," said Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, in the release.

The Christmas tree arrived at the home of Dorothy Grant in Leicestershire in England's East Midlands in 1920, when she was 8 years old, and she was "wildly excited," the auction house said in the release. She decorated it with cotton wool to mimic snow, since baubles were lavish after World War I.

An artificial Christmas tree from 1920, which was originally bought for pennies, just sold for more than $4,300.

Dorothy treasured the tree until her passing at the age of 101 in 2014, following which her 84-year-old daughter, Shirley Hall, inherited it.

"It would have been bought for pennies originally but it's sold for thousands and that's astonishing. I think it's down to the power of nostalgia. Dorothy's story resonated with people," said Hanson.

"As simple as it was Dorothy loved that tree. It became a staple part of family celebrations for decades. The fact that it brought her such joy is humbling in itself. It reminds us that extravagance and excess are not required to capture the spirit of Christmas," he added.

Hanson suggested in the release that the tree could have been produced for an expensive London department store. Even though it resembles the first mass-produced artificial trees sold by popular department store Woolworths, he said it differs from trees sold there previously due to the red paint decoration on its wooden base.

"The seller decided to part with it to honour her mother's memory and to ensure it survives as a humble reminder of 1920s life - a boom-to-bust decade," he added.

A similar Christmas tree, purchased in Scotland for the equivalent of 6 pence (8 cents) in 1937, sold for 150 ($190) at Hansons Auctioneers in 2019, according to Hanson. Another, found in the English city of Derby, sold for 420 ($533) in 2017.

"But Dorothy's tree has truly excelled," he said.

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