This 103-Year-Old Artificial Christmas Tree Just Sold For $4,000 At Auction

Published December 20, 2023

First purchased in 1920, the "humblest Christmas tree in the world" remained in Dorothy Grant's family for more than 100 years.

Dorothy Grant Christmas Tree Auction

HansonsThe 31-inch “humble” Christmas tree.

The “humblest Christmas tree in the world,” a 31-inch artificial tree with 25 branches, just sold at auction for more than $4,000.

The price astonished even the auction house, Hanson Auctioneers, who had assumed it would fetch anywhere between $76 and $102. In a statement, Charles Hanson, owner of the auction house, chalked the sale up to “the magic of Christmas” — and a young girl’s nostalgic story.

The tree originally belonged to Dorothy Grant, whose family first purchased it back in 1920 when she was eight years old. While it may not be as extravagant as modern artificial Christmas trees, to young Dorothy it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She loved it so much that she kept it throughout her entire life until she died at 101 years old.

“The magic of Christmas lives on!” Charles Hanson said. “The humblest Christmas tree in the world has a new home and we’re delighted for both buyer and seller. 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.”

Dorothy Grant was born in 1912, so much of her early childhood took place during World War I. When the war came to an end, the world was a very different place. Baubles and other ornaments were considered an extravagance, so Dorothy decorated her modest little Christmas tree with cotton wool, fashioning it to look like snow.

When she passed away in 2014, the tree — now something of a family heirloom — was inherited by her daughter, Shirley Hall.

“As simple as it was Dorothy loved that tree. It became a staple part of family celebrations for decades,” Hanson said. “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. The waste-not want-not generations of the past continue to teach us a valuable lesson.”

Shirley Hall told the auction house that her grandmother, who was born in 1891, had purchased the tree in 1920, likely from a department store in London. Though it resembles some of the earliest mass-produced Christmas trees sold by Woolworths, the red paint used on its base is a notably different color than that seen on Woolworths’ trees.

Hall provided Hansons with the tree as a way to “honor her mother’s memory” and to pass the tree along as a “humble reminder of 1920s life.”

Shirley Hall With Her Mothers Tree And Photo

HansonsShirley Hall poses with her mother’s photo and Christmas tree.

Hansons has sold similar trees before, but none with quite such a high price tag. Four years ago, in 2019, the auction house sold a Woolworths tree that was first purchased in Scotland in 1937 for around $190. That tree had belonged to a woman named Catherine Smith, who purchased it to celebrate her young son’s first Christmas just before the start of World War II.

That tree, like Grant’s, was cherished by the family and passed down from parent to child, until it reached Claire Barnett, Catherine’s granddaughter, who donated it to the auction house.

Barnett said the tree had been important to her father James, telling the auction house: “When dad was small, he remembers the excitement when the tree went up in the middle of December. Sadly, he lost his father in 1938 when he was only 18 months old. Consequently, dad grew up as an only child but his mum did her best to make Christmas special for him.”

Barnett said her parents had re-discovered the tree while cleaning out their loft. It hadn’t been used by the family since 1995, and they donated it in hopes that “someone else might like it to remember how the festive season used to be.”

Dorothy Grant’s tree serves as a similar relic of a bygone era, before the days of online shopping and excess.

“Despite the devastation of the First World War and Spanish flu pandemic, there was renewed optimism,” Hanson said. “The Roaring Twenties saw major advances in science and technology. But the decade also brought the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Sadly, war, the aftermath of a pandemic and economic instability are still with us. But, then as now, Christmas joy will never be dampened.”

After reading about this humble Christmas tree, learn all about the surprising origins of the Christmas tree — and the pagan traditions that inspired it. Then, explore Christmas during World War II through our gallery of 44 nostalgic pictures.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.
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Harvey, Austin. "This 103-Year-Old Artificial Christmas Tree Just Sold For $4,000 At Auction.", December 20, 2023, Accessed June 15, 2024.