Police box sale could give blues to buyers

The police box on Hunter Square, which is up for sale.

The police box on Hunter Square, which is up for sale.

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ASPIRING time lords are sure to be delighted – a batch of the city’s police boxes are for sale.

The Lothian and Borders force has announced plans to sell off 22 of their Tardis-style boxes to the highest bidders.

But the deal comes with a catch – buyers will have to paint their memorabilia a different colour from the iconic shade of police blue.

The clause was inserted to ensure that members of the public do not mistake the boxes for operational police buildings, even if they are on private property.

In recent years many of the two-tonne boxes, which once offered a vital line of communication to police, have been taken over by coffee vendors and newsagents.

But Edinburgh auctioneer Charles Graham-Campbell of Bonhams believes Doctor Who fanatics will be desperate to snap up the ultimate piece of memorabilia.

A plywood Tardis, which was used as a prop in the TV series, was sold for £10,800 by Bonhams at an auction in 2010.

Mr Graham-Campbell said he would expect a real police box to fetch anything from £4000 to £6000.

He added: “I definitely expect that Doctor Who collectors would be interested. It’s one of the most iconic of all television programmes. The only other thing on-screen that approaches it in terms of collectability is James Bond.”

He added: “They’re quite adaptable buildings. It’s almost like going back in time to when they were used by street corner vendors, or you could have a taxi firm based in one. I think they will be sought after.

“Like the old telephone boxes, people do have a soft spot for them.

“In Edinburgh they’re part of our city life. Everybody likes to see these things in their original position, so if they can be given a new lease of life – that may be the way to go.”

Chris Dugan, assistant manager of Edinburgh branch of the Forbidden Planet comic book store on South Bridge, said replica Tardis boxes could sell for thousands of pounds at Doctor Who conventions.

He added: “Doctor Who merchandise is one of the main things we sell. There’s a massive market for it. There’s quite an age spread of people who are interested. There are kids who have seen the new series, but also middle-aged adults who grew up with it.

“There’s always a chance that collectors could be interested, although a lot of people look at if they’ve been used in shows. I think who Bonhams get interested in them will depend on how they’re marketed.”

In recent years, some police forces have attempted to bring boxes, many of which are listed buildings, back into use but they have proved expensive to maintain, with Lothian and Borders Police spending more than £8000 a year in painting and maintenance costs.

The sites of the cast iron boxes are not for sale, and any buyer wanting to operate them commercially or leave them in place would have to obtain permission from the council.

Successful bidders who want to remove the boxes would have to do so at their own expense.

Sara Griffiths, Lothian and Borders Police property manager, said: “When these boxes were introduced they would have proved invaluable to officers, but as technology and policing methods evolved a number of them have now become obsolete. This is a great opportunity for collectors to snap up a unique piece of Edinburgh, and policing, history.”

LONG SERVICE

EDINBURGH’S police boxes were designed to complement the classic architecture of the Capital by Ebenezer MacRae from 1931-1933.

At their peak there were 86 scattered around the streets. In 1995, 33 were sold off and many are now run by the Police Box Coffee Company. Other boxes were later sold, too.

Last year, Lothian and Borders Police said they still owned 42 of the boxes, but more than half of those are now to be sold. Some are still operational, being used by community officers and traffic wardens out on day-to-day patrols.

However, police have said that the sale will not affect operational duties.

TA-TARDIS TO . .

• Cowgate

• Cranston Street

• Croal Place (Albert Street)

• Dalkeith Street

• Drumsheuch Gardens

• Easter Road

• Hunter Square

• Lawnmarket

• Magdala Crescent

• Market Street

• Marshall Street

• Melville Drive

• Newbattle Terrace

• Newcraighall Road (Wisp)

• Princes Street (West End)

• Quality Street

• Regent Road

• Rutland Square

• The Shore, Leith

• Whitehouse Loan

• West Register Street

• Whitepark, Gorgie Road