Bargains galore in colonial sale of the century
Clear out: Auction of police memorabilia part of intense trade in nostalgia before handover as legal system suffers a blow
Thursday 09 January 1997
Today, for example, the Royal Hong Kong Police are auctioning off an assortment of 150th anniversary memorabilia. As the police force are about to lose their royal insignia and they are the only official body to still carry the old colonial insignia, interest in the auction has been lively.
"You won't be able to buy these after the handover", says Kamuel Chow, a former police officer who is responsible for the auction. "The Royal Hong Kong Police is part of Hong Kong's history. Now that will end, it's very sad, but that's how it is."
The police force was one of the first institutions formed by the colonial authorities. Their record is hardly unblemished, having been tarred by high levels of corruption. However today they like to think of themselves as one of the least corrupt and most efficient police forces in Asia.
They are also sticklers for tradition. Long after the rest of Hong Kong government adopted a new seal in 1958 the police stuck with the original symbol depicting a pig-tailed Chinese man and a black-clad European standing on the edge of the harbour with two clippers in the background. It is clear that they are there for the purpose of commerce - always the main purpose of the colony.
Buyers at tomorrow's auction will have a chance to scoop up 3,600 commemorative bone-China plates, specially produced police anniversary phone cards, first-day stamp covers and even custom-made holders for mass-transit railway tickets. Mr Chow is forecasting "huge profits" from these items in a year or two. He says "now is the real time to buy".
This is something more than a salesman's pitch. Prices are already rising for colonial souvenirs sold at previous auctions. The British garrison, which is fast winding down, has been the most aggressive seller. Most of its wares are of little sentimental value but even they received better than expected prices.
The market for government porcelain and cutlery bearing the crown insignia is even better. Last June a sale of these items raised over pounds 84,000 and there are reports of a brisk resale market emerging across the border in China where a nostalgia wave of another kind, for Mao-era Cultural Revolution mementoes, is also raging.
Unfortunately for potential buyers, that was the last chance to obtain Crown-encrusted tableware direct from the government. Items at present in use will simply be thrown away when the Union flag is lowered on 30 June. However it is a fair bet that the civil servants accustomed to taking their morning tea from chunky cups with a green royal seal will be ferrying the cups to their homes.
One of the most potent symbols of British rule are the old, red letter boxes. Some date back to the reign of George V. A job lot of boxes was eagerly snapped up by buyers such as restaurant owners.
The nostalgia vogue looks set to get more intense.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
Nepal earthquake video: Terrifying footage shows moment avalanche hit Everest Base Camp
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...