Charles Dickens toothpick sold at auction in New York

An ivory and gold toothpick once owned by Charles Dickens was sold at an auction in New York City for the amount of US$9,150.

The item is engraved with the English author’s initials. It was sold by heirs to the Barnes and Noble family. The pre-sale estimate was $3,000 to $5,000. The auctioneer, Bonhams, said the buyer did not want to be named.

The toothpick has Charles Dickens's initials and a retracting mechanism.

An authentication letter from Dickens’s sister-in-law says the author of “Great Expectations” and “A Christmas Carol” used the toothpick up to his death in 1870.

The author, also known by the pen-name of Boz, created some of the most memorable fictional characters of all time. Dickens’s work, which also includes “Oliver Twist” and “David Copperfield”, has enjoyed enormous popularity in America since the author’s own lifetime. Charles Dickens visited the country and wrote the travelogue “American Notes”.

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Source > BBC

Counting on Christmas Statistics > the holidays by the numbers

So you have read our post Counting on Christmas Statistics which goes back to December 19, 2006. We have been asked to provide any latest statisctics, if these were available, so here we are with the latest [if additional details are released, we will update this post].

It’s in the Mail > 19 billion > Number of cards, letters and packages the U.S. Postal Service expected to deliver between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2008. The busiest delivery day was expected to be December 17, with more than twice as many cards and letters being processed as the average on any given day.

Rush to the Stores > $28.2 billion > Retail sales by the nation’s department stores (including leased departments) in December 2008. This represented a 40 percent jump from the previous month (when retail sales, many holiday-related, registered $20.2 billion). No other month-to-month increase in department store sales last year was as large.

Other U.S. retailers with sizable jumps in sales between November and December 2008 were book stores (95 percent); clothing stores (32 percent); jewelry stores (125 percent); radio, TV and other electronics stores (38 percent); and sporting goods stores (62 percent).

14% > The proportion of total 2008 sales for department stores (including leased departments) in December. For jewelry stores, the percentage was 18%.

23% > The proportion of growth in inventories by our nation’s department stores (excluding leased departments) through August 31 to November 30, 2008. Thanks to the holiday crowds, inventories plummeted by 25% in December.

Note: Leased departments are separately owned businesses operated as departments or concessions of other service establishments or of retail businesses, such as a separately owned shoe-shine parlor in a barber shop, or a beauty shop in a department store. Also, retail sales estimates have not been adjusted to account for seasonal or pricing variations.

$24 billion > Value of retail sales by electronic shopping and mail-order houses in December 2008–the highest total for any month last year.

16,670 > The number of electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in 2007. These businesses, which employed 268,328 workers, are a popular source of holiday gifts. Their sales: $199 billion, of which 44.6% were attributable to e-commerce. California led the nation in the number of these establishments and their employees, with 2,493 and 32,971, respectively.

If you’re not sure where to do your shopping, choices of retail establishments abound: In 2007, there were 155,371 clothing and clothing accessories stores; 10,116 department stores; 9,515 hobby, toy and game shops; 30,920 gift, novelty and souvenir shops; 23,756 sporting goods stores; 27,484 jewelry stores; and 10,635 book stores across the nation. The figures shown are for locations with paid employees.

Christmas Trees and Decorations > $410 million > The gross earnings of Christmas tree farmers in 2007.

$109.3 million > Sales by Christmas tree farmers in Oregon in 2007, which led the nation.

$470.3 million > The value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and August 2009. China was the leading country of origin for such items. Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($28.6 million worth) during the same period.

Where the toys are… made > 94 > Number of establishments around the country that primarily manufactured dolls and stuffed toys in 2008; they employed 1,641 people. California led the nation with 17 locations.

683 > The number of locations that primarily produced games, toys, and children’s vehicles in 2007; they employed 10,708 workers. California led the nation with 112 establishments.

$3.2 billion > Total value of shipments for dolls, toys and games by manufacturers in 2007.

$4.3 billion > The value of U.S. toy imports including stuffed toys (excluding dolls), puzzles and electric trains from China between January and August 2009. China was the leading country of origin for stuffed toys coming into this country, as well as for a number of other popular holiday gifts. These include roller skates ($30 million), sports footwear ($120 million), golf balls ($31 million) and basketballs ($29 million). China leads Canada as the leading supplier of ice skates ($12 million versus $5 million), with Thailand ranking third ($4 million).

Holiday names > Place names associated with the holiday season include North Pole, Alaska (population 2,212 in 2008); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,314); Santa Claus, Ga. (250); Noel, Mo. (1,608); and, if you know about reindeer, the village of Rudolph, Wis. (412) and Dasher, Ga. (849). There is Snowflake, Ariz. (5,673) and a dozen places named Holly, including Holly Springs, Miss., and Mount Holly, N.C.

Hanukkah and Kwanzaa > 50.4% > Proportion of the nation’s spuds produced in Idaho and Washington in 2008. Potato latkes are always a crowd pleaser during Hanukkah.

$1.3 billion > The value of product shipments of candles in 2002 by the nation’s manufacturers. Many of these candles are lit during Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations.

New Year’s Eve and Day > 79,389 > The estimated July 1, 2008, population of Champaign, Ill., a place whose name alone may get you into a celebratory mood.

$475 million > U.S. manufacturers shipments of effervescent wines (including sparkling wines, such as champagne) in 2002.

More than 308 million > The nation’s projected population as we ring in the New Year.

Source > U.S. Census Bureau.

Police’s version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

Posted On December 17, 2009

Filed under News Americas, Offbeat News

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The Christmas Spirit seems to be in full swing at a Police Department in Wisconsin, USA.

Kenosha Police Department’s officers have made a Christmas video that features their version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

The cops sing about gifts from their chief that include bullets, guns, jelly doughnuts, night shifts and coffee breaks. One officer is shown with his feet up on a desk sipping coffee. Another is sitting in front of a box of doughnuts, his nose and cheek smeared with jelly.

A blurb on the Police Department’s web site invites people who need a laugh “during this hectic time of year” to click on the video.

After “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, traditional versions of two more carols play as pictures, which include some officers, float across the screen.

However, if you try to browse the Police Department’s web site [] today, the message you will receive is the following “The site you are trying to reach does not exist or has been disabled”.  Must have been a top hit!

Santa lost his reindeer

Posted On December 17, 2009

Filed under News Americas, Offbeat News

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Santa Claus is in trouble with the law in one western Wisconsin city, US.

Police in Sparta city, Wisconsin, said they cited a man dressed as Santa after witnesses told officers he stumbled out of a vehicle, approached several children playing in a yard, hugged them and demanded to know the whereabouts of his reindeer.

The man was cited for open intoxicants. The driver of the car in which he was riding was arrested for drunken driving.

An old fashioned Christmas parade

Posted On October 16, 2007

Filed under News Americas

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“An Old Fashioned Holiday” is the theme for the 2007 Christmas Parade scheduled for Monday evening, December 3 at 6:30 p.m. in Fort Walton Beach.

Mayor Mike Anderson will serve as the Grand Marshal in this annual event, which will kick off the Holiday Season on the Emerald Coast. Musical entertainment will be provided by area school bands and participating applicants as the parade march moves up Eglin Parkway from First Street to Uptown Station.

Parade Officials are eagerly looking forward to an exciting and entertaining evening, and encourage all schools, bands, youth groups, churches and businesses, as well as civic, military, religious and service organizations to participate. The last float in the parade will feature Santa Claus accompanied by his elves which will be dispersing Christmas trinkets to the children, both young and old, along the parade route.

The parade entries will be divided into five different categories and the following awards will be presented:

Best Service Club Entry
Best Military Marching Unit
Best Commercial (Business) Entry
Best Entry by a Youth Organization
Best Entry by a Religious Organization

A panel of prominent citizens will judge the event and the winners will be awarded plaques and recognized at the City Council Meeting.

To obtain a parade entry application, or receive additional information on the Christmas Parade, contact JoAnn Hofstad at the Parks & Recreation Department located at 132 Jet Drive, Fort Walton Beach, or call (850) 833-9576. The deadline to submit parades application is November 28 at 5 p.m.

Pittsburgh CLO Presents ‘Christmas Carol’ and ‘Plaid Tidings’

Pittsburgh CLO presents two Holiday shows: Tickets for Pittsburgh CLO’s 16th annual holiday production of A Musical Christmas Carol at the Byham Theater and the highly-anticipated Pittsburgh premiere of Plaid Tidings at the CLO Cabaret will go on sale Friday, October 5, 2007.

Plaid Tidings > November 8, 2007 – January 13, 2008 > The very best of Forever Plaid wrapped up in a nifty package with a big bow on top! Pittsburgh’s original cast (J.D. Daw, Joe Domencic, Adam Halpin and Marcus Stevens) is back in town for their highly-anticipated Christmas Special, filled with “plaid-erized” holiday favorites. At first The Plaids aren’t sure why they’ve returned, but a phone call from the heavenly Rosemary Clooney tells them that they’re needed to add a little harmony to the world. Plaid Tidings is sponsored by TRACO.

Performances are Wednesday-Saturday evenings, 7:30PM; and Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2PM. Tickets ($50.50) are available online at, by calling 412-456-6666 or at the Box Office at Theater Square. Groups of 10 or more can call the Group Sales Hotline at 412-325-1582 to learn more about special discounts and priority seating.

A Musical Christmas Carol > December 7-23, 2007 Byham Theater > Featuring classic characters and a wealth of yuletide melodies, this traditional holiday tale is a must see! Audiences are sure to enjoy Ebenezer Scrooge’s ghostly adventure through the past, present and future as he finds redemption from a life of loneliness and greed, and just in time to celebrate the season. Young and old alike will rejoice in this heartwarming musical production!

Performances are Fridays at 7:30PM; Saturdays at 12PM, 4PM & 8PM; Sundays at 2PM & 6PM; and Thursday December 20 at 7:30PM. Student Matinees are December 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 18 & 19 at 10AM

Pittsburgh CLO is proud to present eight specially priced 10AM Student Matinees. With an informative study guide, behind-the-scenes DVD and captivating musical performances, A Musical Christmas Carol is both an educational theater experience and wonderful holiday celebration!  Teachers who want to make A Musical Christmas Carol part of their lesson plans should call the Group Sales Hotline at (412) 263-2560.

Tickets to A Musical Christmas Carol are affordably priced for family entertainment from $26.50 to $42.50 with half-priced tickets for children 3-14.  Tickets are available online at or by calling (412) 456-6666 or at the Box Office at Theater Square.

Pittsburgh CLO has carefully designed special group discounts and corporate ticket programs to accommodate any size group!  Interested parties should call the Group Sales Hotline at (412) 263-2560 to learn more about these fantastic opportunities.     

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Christmas Ornament Benefits Cultural Fund

If you are looking to do some early Christmas shopping, you might consider getting an ornament from a North Dakota artist.

Jon Offut of Fargo is working with the North Dakota Council on the Arts to grow the North Dakota Cultural Endowment Fund. A special edition, hand-made ornament is for sale, and the Council says proceeds go to the Endowment Fund. It says the money provides artistic opportunities for people across the state. The Fund was created by the state legislature in 1979.

“One of the suggestions was to sell a handmade ornament created by a North Dakota artist,” says Amy Schmidt of the ND Council on the Arts. “So we decided to do that and for this we commissioned John Offut who is the owner and operator of the House of Mulciber Glass Studio in Fargo.”

For more information on the Special Edition Ornament, log onto Or you can e-mail, or call 701-328-7590.

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