Danske Bank selling its Irish family silver

Collection expected to sell between €10,000 and €20,000 at John Weldon Auctioneers

Danske Bank, the Danish bank that has been winding down its business in Ireland, is selling its Irish corporate collection of antique silver.

It was inherited by Danske when the bank took over National Irish Bank 11 years ago.

Dublin auctioneer John Weldon, who specialises in the sale of antique silver and jewellery said the bank had asked him to sell the collection that includes a Victorian tea and coffee service, salvers, candelabras and punch bowls.

Denmark's biggest bank, with headquarters in Copenhagen, entered the Irish market in 2005 close to the peak of the Celtic Tiger boom, when it took over National Irish Bank which had been created in 1985 from the State operations of Belfast-based Northern Bank.


Modest collection

Branches of National Irish Bank were rebranded as Danske Bank. Separately, Danske also acquired Northern Bank.

Weldon said he had collected the silver from a caretaker in an office in Dublin’s IFSC on the instructions of Danske Bank in Belfast.

The relatively modest collection, with an overall valuation of between €10,000 and €20,000, has been divided into seven lots and will go under the hammer in his saleroom in Cow's Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin, on Tuesday (May 17th).

Some of the pieces have inscriptions recalling the bank’s Northern Bank heritage and Weldon said the sale was “an important event in the story of banking in Ireland”.

The top lot is the Victorian embossed silver tea and coffee service – a spirit kettle, teapot, coffee pot, water jug, sugar bowl, cream jug, and sugar caster – made in London in 1897, with a total weight of approximately 5.44kg and engraved with the Latin motto “tranquillus in periculo” (which loosely translates as “calm in a storm”).

A silver salver is engraved with an inscription recording that it was "subscribed for by his friends in the Belfast Bank in memory of JP Gorman" who died on January 30th, 1935.

Crisis erupted

Three years after Danske Bank entered the Irish market, the banking crisis erupted in 2008.

A year later, the chief executive in Copenhagen described Ireland as a “depressing place” and Danske announced it was, bizarrely, becoming a “cashless bank” and would no longer accept cash lodgements.

In 2011, Denmark's financial newspaper Borsen reported that Danske's Irish business had already cost shareholders losses of 34 billion kroner (€4.6 billion).

By 2012, Danske had closed all 27 of its branches and, today, only retains a small operation in Dublin to provide corporate banking services to companies.

Although Danske Bank, one of Scandinavia’s major financial institutions, has withdrawn from the Republic it remains an important bank in the North where it has 46 branches – more than it has in Sweden (36) or Norway (31).

The sale of the Danske silver is the latest in a series of cultural asset disposals by banks in Ireland since the crash. The corporate art collections of both Bank of Ireland and Anglo Irish Bank have been sold at auction while AIB's art collection was donated to the State.

The Danske Bank silver will go on view from noon today at John Weldon Auctioneers, Cow's Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin where the auction will take place on Tuesday at 2pm.