UPDATE: The online sale that ended on 16 December was also a “white glove” auction, with 100% of lots sold. It achieved £988,450 hammer (£1.2m with premium). Fittingly for someone who inspired the term “handbagging” (meaning to “verbally attack or crush (a person or idea) ruthlessly and forcefully”), one of the top lots was the handbag used by Thatcher on her last visit to Downing Street. It soared above the high estimate of £1,500 to sell for £38,000 hammer (£47,500 with premium).
Together the two auctions made £3.6m hammer (£4.5m with premium), far surpassing the £500,000 estimate.
Margaret Thatcher’s style was not to everyone’s taste, but that didn’t stop an auction of the Iron Lady’s belongings selling 100% by lot at Christie’s yesterday. The 185-lot sale fetched £2.6m hammer (£3.3m with premium), with bidders from 41 countries vying for items of clothing, jewellery and memorabilia from her time in office.
The top lot was a model of an American bald eagle, which was given to Thatcher by the former US president Ronald Reagan in 1984, and sold to an online buyer for £220,000 hammer (£266,500 with premium, est £5,000-£8,000). Thatcher’s prime ministerial red leather dispatch box also sparked protracted bidding from as far afield as South Korea and Malta and sold for £200,000 hammer (£242,000 with premium, est £3,000-£5,000).
The former British prime minister’s personal belongings were equally popular; her blue velvet wedding dress, said to be inspired by Gainsborough’s portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, sold for £20,000 hammer (£25,000 with premium, est £10,000-£15,000).
The auction’s success may well spur on the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), which is now in conversation with Thatcher’s family about acquiring some belongings. The move follows criticism that the museum had originally declined an offer. “We hope to take [discussions] forward in the New Year,” said a spokeswoman for the V&A, who added that the museum was “not planning to take part in the Christie’s sale”.
The second online sale of 233 items finishes today; the two auctions were expected to make a minimum of £500,000.