Thatcher minister’s box grabs $500k at auction

  • 16/12/2015
The Prime Ministerial Dispatch Box, placed on a plinth. (Reuters)
The Prime Ministerial Dispatch Box, placed on a plinth. (Reuters)

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's famous red ministerial box fetched STG242,500 (NZ$539,401.64) at a sale of her possessions in London by auction house Christie's.

Initially expected to sell for between STG3000 and STG5000, auctioneer Jussi Pykkanen finalised the sale to an unidentified buyer with a bang of his hammer, to applause from the audience.

The box, in which the late Conservative leader would carry confidential documents, is one of the most iconic of about 200 of Thatcher's personal belongings offered for sale by Christie's.

Many have been advertised online since December 3, with the sale due to end on Wednesday (local time).

Items which belonged to the "Iron Lady" have often sold better than the clothes she wore.

A sheet featuring a typed prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi and signed by Thatcher, which she quoted on first arriving in Downing Street in 1979, sold for STG37,500, despite an initial estimate of between STG600 and STG900.

Her blue velvet wedding dress, valued at between STG10,000 and STG15,000, went for STG25,000 to a buyer in Oman.

Some 200 buyers followed the sale online and many others by telephone, including prospective bidders from Austria, South Korea, Australia and the United States.

The sale of Thatcher's clothes revealed her "secret passion" for fashion, curator Meredith Etherington-Smith said.

Thatcher was the daughter of a seamstress and as a child she and her sister made their own clothes, she added.

"When she became the first woman prime minister, she used clothes as a way of emphasising her power," Etherington-Smith explained last week.

"Every time there was a photo opportunity, she was beautifully dressed, immaculately coiffured, with a nice handbag, and she looked what she was: a powerful person."

Thatcher led the country from 1979 to 1990. She died in 2013 at the age of 87.