Charles Dickens collectibles


2015-06-26 11:22:18

Charles Dickens collectibles

Charles Dickens was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era. His famous works include A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and other hit novels of 19th-century England.



Dickens was born Charles John Huffam Dickens on February 7th, 1812, at Port-sea (later part of Portsmouth) on the southern coast of England. Due to his family's financial difficulties, Dickens grew up in poverty – a recurring theme in his works, thanks these conditions psychological and sociological effects.

The family moved often, eventually settling in Camden Town, a poor area of London. At the age of 12 Charles was sent to work in a warehouse that handled "blacking" or shoe polish. He returned to school at age 13 and his formal education ended at age 15.

As Dickens himself once wrote:

“My whole nature was so penetrated with grief and humiliation of such considerations, that even now, famous and caressed and happy, I often forget in my dreams that I have a dear wife and children; even that I am a man; and wander desolately back to that time of my life."

He began his professional writing career as a reporter. His fiction career began with short pieces reprinted as Sketches by "Boz" (1836). Dickens’ storytelling abilities earned him status as the most popular English author of his time through his comic novel The Pickwick Papers (1837).

Development as a literary figure

Dickens began to write Dombey and Son, which continued till 1848. This novel established a new standard in the Dickensian novel and is considered a turning point in his career – move from light and cheerful comedy into realistic, humanist literature.

It was followed by David Copperfield, containing further broad social perspective and personal subject matter.

While his earlier works were set in a fictionalised version of Chatham, London became the main focus of Dickens's work. This applied to his ‘darker novels’, including Bleak House (1852-3). Dickens used his popularity to campaign for the reform of British institutions (e.g. the 1834 Poor Law, the prison system, the civil service, the law).

Today, Dickens’ legacy as one of the giants of English literature endures – making first editions and other manuscripts from his lifetime valued on the collectors’ markets.

Notable sales

First edition books

A first edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens sold for £181,250 at a Sotheby’s auction in London in October 2010.

First-edition copies of 'The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club' and 'The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby', both signed by Dickens and inscribed to his friend Walter Savage Landor, sold for £67,250 (including buyer's premium) at Sotheby’s in London on December 16.

'Unique' Charles Dickens collectibles

More unusual Charles Dickens collectibles which have appeared on the markets include:

  • the collar worn by his dog which auctioned for $11,500 in March 2010. It sold at Bonhams in New York.
  • an ivory and gold toothpick once owned by Charles Dickens today sold at a U.S. auction for nearly £7,000 at Bonhams.

Collectible hair

An “authentic hair from the head of Charles Dickens measures 1/16th" appeared for sale on the collectibles markets, courtesy of online retailer A Small Piece of History in 2010.

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