Christmas collectibles at auction: memorabilia, books - and even sleds

The collectibles markets have seen a number of unique and wonderful Christmas items sell over the years - featuring everyone from Beatrix Potter to Arthur Conan Doyle, and even notorious gangsters.

Christmas is, of course, a time of personal gifts, messages and dedications. Memorabilia - often bearing handwritten inscriptions - with a personal touch can persuade bidders to raise their paddles. So it's no surprise that there have been plenty of big Christmas auction successes over the years...


Beatrix Potter's The Rabbits' Christmas Party

Helen Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) is among the few authors whose works will likely always hold massive appeal for collectors. And not just her writings, but also her famous artworks - most notably those featuring her principle muse: rabbits.

Examples sold at auction include this art piece, offered at Sotheby's in 2008, entitled The Rabbits' Christmas Party: The Arrival. Bearing all the Potter trademarks, this autographed fine ink and watercolour drawing heightened with gouache sold for £121,250.


'Santa Jack' sled from Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas

If you set out to make an iconic Christmas film, then you have plenty of competition in the 'iconic' stakes from Hollywood's many past classics. Yet Tim Burton's 1993 film Nightmare Before Christmas is now part of the iconic Christmas film cannon.

Among the stop-motion film's most memorable scenes is a sequence featuring this sled, ridden by the film's protagonist in his guise of "Santa Jack". This model included the stop-motion Jack puppet, his dog "Zero", a skeleton reindeer and a trashcan filled with presents.

The nightmare sled sold for $55,000 at Profiles in History in 2008.


Artist Guy Wiggin's (1883-1962) 'An Old-Fashioned Christmas'

We've shown you Beatrix Potter and Tim Burton's respective anthropomorphised and nightmarish versions of Christmas. So how about a more traditional version?

"The painting depicts Grand Army Plaza with two black horse-drawn carriages in the foreground," said artist Guy Wiggin's own letter which accompanied this sale of his rare artwork, An Old-Fashioned Christmas, at Sotheby's in 2006.

The work sold for $90,000, proving that a traditional Christmas is still the first choice of many collectors.


Criminal John Dillinger's signed Christmas letter

Even US 'Public Enemy #1' gangsters have time for Christmas - that is, unless they are in prison. This letter was written by notorious criminal John Dillinger to his niece, Mary Hancock. Dated December 18, 1932, the letter was penned in Crown Point jail, Indiana.

In the letter, Dillinger writes of his desire to be with family at Christmas, and that this will be his last Christmas in jail. He also jokes that he may need to borrow money once he is released.

Dillinger later famously escaped from Crown Point jail with a carved wooden gun (which itself auctioned in recent years).  This Christmas letter proved irresistible to collectors, and brought $50,000 above its $6,000 presale estimate at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in 2007.

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes festive first appearance, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Today, Sherlock Holmes is attracting both cinema and TV audiences in various modern-day adaptations. But neither is a match for writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original imaginings of his famous detective.

Holmes made his first-ever appearance in 1887 in the adventure A Study in Scarlet. It was part of Beeton's Christmas Annual, Twenty-Eighth Season, published in London. This copy was particularly special: the first printing of the first Sherlock Holmes story.

That this copy was the first of its kind (collectors, after all, love 'firsts') saw it bring $153,600 at Sotheby's in 2004.

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock