Valuing the ‘worth’ of Christmases past…

Are those gifts you’ve received over the years worth more than you think?


As Christmas and New year celebrations fade away, festive decorations banished to the loft for another year and the remnants of that rich Christmas cake finally polished off, many can at least look back at some of the more lasting mementos of the festive period.

The luckier ones amongst us may have received a gift that we can both appreciate and see appreciate in value over the coming years. If the last five to ten years are anything to go by, there are some gifts from Christmases past now worth far more than their original purchase price says James McDowell, Aon’s Head of Fine Art. “When it comes to collectables, if you’ve been the lucky Christmas recipient of a Birkin handbag for example, then you will have seen values rocket in recent years. The same goes for some types of whisky as well as other collectables such as sporting memorabilia.”

Crocodile rocks

Let’s start with the handbag. Named after the English actress Jane Birkin – who apparently complained on a flight of not finding a bag big enough to carry all her essentials (including her baby’s bottles) – and designed by Hermes, the Birkin bag has been in production since the 1980s and has become a hugely popular celebrity accessory. Last year, a crocodile skin Hermes Birkin, made in 2010, sold for a record US$295,0001 at Christie’s in London. While the white gold and diamond hardware might have helped the value of this particular example, new Birkin bags sell from US$12,000 upwards and their value is set to rise further.

Have you ‘bagged’ a Birkin?

If you have been lucky enough to get one – and it’s not that easy to ‘bag’ a Birkin either – it’s important to make sure it’s appropriately insured. “Because the value of Birkin bags has appreciated – by as much as 14.2% annually over a 30-year period2– many owners might be unaware of the true worth of their bag. It is why it is so important to have it regularly valued and for that value to be accurately reflected in their home and contents insurance. The condition of the bag will obviously be important to its value as will its provenance; is the original box still with it for example?” says McDowell.

A word of caution: given a Birkin is made of natural materials, some damage may be uninsurable adds McDowell. “Mould and mildew are generally excluded from insurance cover as is any fading caused by light, so it’s important to keep a bag in the right humidity and avoid excessive exposure to sunlight.”

Mine’s a large one

If not a Birkin, perhaps you’ve received a good bottle of whisky as a past Christmas gift. In which case you may also have benefited from soaring values which have seen some vintage whisky appreciate by 140%3 over the last five years. A 1926 Macallan recently sold for a record £1.2 million at Christie’s.

Again, as with a Birkin, keeping on top of the value of any vintage whisky is critical for insurance purposes, as is keeping the whisky in top condition. “The real value of a vintage whisky is not necessarily what’s in the bottle,” says Aon’s McDowell, “but what’s on it. The label is critical to identifying the provenance of a whisky – just as with wine – and must be in good condition. It is why it is important to keep whisky off the ground and stored in the correct environment. If you’re perhaps thinking of buying a bottle as an investment or as a gift, the growing risk of forgeries means it is equally as important to buy your whisky from a recognisable source with a good reputation for supplying whisky.”

On the ‘ead son

A third, rapidly appreciating area of collectables is sporting memorabilia. Again, values here can be stratospheric. Perhaps you were lucky enough to have received baseball star Babe Ruth’s 1920 jersey that sold for US$4.4 million in 20124 or, more modestly, a football shirt worn by German football legend Franz Beckenbauer from the 1966 World Cup semi-final (sold for £5,000 in 20145). “Collecting sporting memorabilia has grown in popularity in recent years whether it’s a shirt from the 1966 World Cup or a top signed by Lionel Messi – one of which recently sold for £3,000 – and prices are rising again. If you have a piece of sporting memorabilia that you’ve owned for a number of years, getting an up to date valuation is important, as is protecting any evidence of its provenance,” says McDowell.

A gift that keeps on giving

While many of us take good care to keep insurance valuations for fine art collections up to date, it’s important to check that other collectables are valued properly for insurance purposes and kept in the right environment to preserve their value. “If you have received a Birkin bag, a nice vintage whisky or even a Wayne Rooney football shirt from a Christmas past, you could find out that Santa has been even more generous to you in recent years than you originally thought,” concludes McDowell.

For further information on the issues covered by this article, please contact Aon Private Clients on 0330 1271 543 or visit our Private Clients page


Whilst care has been taken in the production of this article and the information contained within it has been obtained from sources that Aon UK Limited believes to be reliable, Aon UK Limited does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose of the article or any part of it and can accept no liability for any loss incurred in any way whatsoever by any person who may rely on it. In any case any recipient shall be entirely responsible for the use to which it puts this article. This article has been compiled using information available to us up to 10/01/19.

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