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What Would the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center Be Worth?


What Would the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center Be Worth?

Photograph by Ali Goldstein/NBC

You can’t put a price on Christmas spirit. An 80-foot Christmas tree with a 9½-foot crystal star and LED lights a-twinkle? That’s a different story.

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center has become a valuable commodity to midtown Manhattan, drawing about 750,000 holiday visitors to the shopping and tourist destination every day the tree is lit. (On non-Christmas days, about 350,000 people visit.)

Tishman Speyer, which co-owns Rockefeller Center, doesn’t pay for the tree. It is donated every year, and interested giant-Norway spruce owners can submit their trees for consideration. This season, Flanders (N.J.) resident Joseph Balku offered his tree, which survived Hurricane Sandy, after Tishman Speyer’s head gardener found it while lost returning from a tree-hunting trip.

But say you want to replicate America’s most famous tree in your living room. First, you’d better have a big living room. And a generator. The 80-year-old Norway spruce weighs about 10 tons and stands 80 feet (shorter by 20 feet than the center’s tallest tree from 1999). It is wrapped in about five miles of LED lights with 45,000 bulbs, topped with a 550-pound, LED-powered Swarovski star studded with 25,000 crystals, and has no other ornaments.

Here’s what you could expect to pay:

• 80-foot Norway spruce—if you can find one. Rockefeller Center traditionally picks a Norway spruce at least 75 feet tall. Wisconsin-based tree appraiser Ed Steigerwaldt says the market for trees of this size is very small, mostly limited to large cities with special display areas and tourism centers: $25,000

• Swarovski ornament—and not just the $1,800 snowflake you can buy for home. Based on Swarovski prices, Nick Dawes, vice president of special collections at Heritage Auctions, estimates that this tree topper, which is decked with 720 LED bulbs and 25,000 crystals, is worth: $35,000

• 45,000 C9 LED lights, which are energy efficient and good for outdoor use. Hillary Zody, a spokesperson for Christmaslightsetc.com, says at this volume, the buyer would likely get a generously discounted rate compared with retail: $13,500

Total: $73,500

Extravagant as this may seem, it’s still a tree of “Charlie Brown” proportion compared with the showy, $11 million tree encrusted in diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires, and other jewels that the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi put up in 2010.

Venessa-wong-190x190
Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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