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"Humblest Christmas tree in the world" sells for more than $4,000 at auction

One of the earliest mass-produced artificial Christmas trees, originally purchased for pennies in 1920, sold for an astonishing £3,400, or $4296.13, at auction on Friday, according to Hansons Auctioneers.

The auction house had estimated that the 123-year-old tree, described as "the humblest Christmas tree in the world," would sell for £60-£80, but it sparked a bidding bar before it was purchased by a private buyer in the U.K. Hansons Auctioneers attributed the high sale price to "the magic of Christmas," nostalgia and the story of the girl who first owned the tree. 

Christmas tree sold at auction
Charles Hanson, owner of the auction house, and what Hansons Auctioneers describes as the "humblest Christmas tree in the world." Hansons Auctioneers

"Though a far cry from today's plethora of extravagant creations, the tree was the stuff of dreams when it came into Dorothy Grant's life when she was eight years old in 1920," the auction house wrote. "So much so she kept it for her entire life – and she lived to be 101."

Baubles were considered a luxury at the time when Grant got the tree, the auction house said. So she instead decorated the tree with cotton wool to mimic snow. Grant kept the tree until she died in 2014. Her daughter, now 84, inherited the tree. 

"The seller is parting with the tree to honor her mother's memory and to ensure it survives as a humble reminder of 1920s life –a boom-to-bust decade," Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said in a news release.

The tree is 31 inches tall and has 25 branches, 12 berries and six mini candle holders, according to the auction house. It has a small, red-painted wooden base. Grant's mother may have purchased it from Woolworths, the popular department store that started selling some of the first mass-produced artificial trees around 1920. 

"As simple as it was, Dorothy loved that tree," Hanson said. "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. For Dorothy it was enough to have a tree."

A similar Christmas tree purchased in Scotland for the equivalent of 6 pence in 1937, sold for £150 at Hansons Auctioneers in 2019. Another similar tree sold for £420 in 2017, making the auction price of Grant's price a big surprise. Hanson called it "astonishing."

"I think it's down to the power of nostalgia," he said. "Dorothy's story resonated with people."

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