Two hundred and thirty-six years after James Christie negotiated the landmark sale of the magnificent art collection of Great Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, to Catherine the Great, Christie’s long tradition of offering notable private collections continued with Mrs Thatcher: Property from the Collection of The Right Honourable The Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, LG, OM, FRS, two sales which attracted a truly global audience and realized an overall total of £4,516,038/ $6,831,487/ €6,189,443.
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Comprising 418 lots in total across both sales, the traditional auction at Christie’s headquarters in London (15 December) and the online-only sale (3-16 December) were each 100 per cent sold, with registered bidders from a total of 44 countries across five continents.
The sales were held 25 years after Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) left office at the end of her 11-year tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1979-1990), and in the year that ‘The Iron Lady’ would have celebrated her 90th birthday.
The 15 December auction at King Street comprised 185 lots, and sparked international interest with competitive bidding in the saleroom, on the telephones and with clients utilising the opportunity to bid from around the globe online using Christie’s Live.
Clients seized this once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire items which gave insights into both the public and private life of Britain’s first female Prime Minister
The top lot was a Kaiser biscuit model of an American bald eagle, presented to Mrs. Thatcher by President Ronald Reagan on 13 June 1984. The lot had a pre-sale estimate of £5,000-8,000 and realized £266,500. The second highest price of the auction was paid for Mrs. Thatcher’s Prime Ministerial red morocco dispatch box, 1980-90, which sold for £242,500 against a high estimate of £5,000.
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These two lots set the pattern for an extraordinary sale, which saw countless items far exceed their high estimates. For example, Baroness Thatcher’s parliamentary robes were estimated at £1,200-1,800 and sold for £81,700, while an original working design of a political cartoon by Nicholas Garland titled ‘The Lady’s Not for Turning’ sold for £52,500 against a high estimate of £500. The King Street segment of the sale realized £3,280,475 / $4,973,200 / €4,494,251 (see full results).
Of the 233 lots offered in the online-only sale, the top lot was a cultured pearl necklace, which sold for £62,500 against a high estimate of £800. The handbag used by Mrs. Thatcher on her last visit to No. 10 Downing Street fetched £47,500 (high estimate: £1,500), while a bronze cast of her hands from Madame Tussauds (1988) realized £40,000 against a high estimate of £600.
‘The market’s response to these historic sales, both the online-only sale and the traditional auction, was remarkable, with the overall result for the Mrs. Thatcher collection far exceeding pre-sale expectations,’ commented Adrian Hume-Sayer, Head of Sale. ‘Clients from all over the world seized this once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire items which gave insights into both the public and private life of Britain’s first female Prime Minister, who was a political giant on the world stage.’
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