A Derby woman is washing a collection of 2,000 soaps out of her life by sending them to auction after 50 years dedicated to obtaining them.
Stephanie Weaver, 78, of Littleover, started collecting soaps in the 1970s. Now she’s decided the time has come to part with them in a bid to save them for posterity.
She largely collects them from hotel bathrooms, all over the world - and the auctioneer who is going to sell them thinks it could get bidders in a lather.Stephanie, a retired bookkeeper with two children and four grandchildren, said: “It all started on family holidays with my daughters when they were young.
"We used to like going abroad to places like Spain, France and Italy and enjoyed some European road trips.“Whenever I went into a hotel the first thing I would do is go into the bathroom to see if there was any soap.
"If there was I saved it as a memento. I used to take spare soap with me to use. I just liked to collect different soaps as a memory of my stay.“They mounted up and up over the years. I started saving other soaps too, even from supermarkets.
"If I saw a soap that wasn’t in my collection I bought it.
"I have everything from everyday brands like Lux and Palmolive to three handmade soaps from Thailand. I may hang on to those.“Over the years, my friends latched on to my collection and whenever they went away they’d bring me back a bar of soap from hotels they visited.
"I have one from the Holiday Inn in Amman in the Middle East but I’ve never been there.“One soap gift set spells out ‘Grandma’. My grandchildren bought that. I suppose the most important bar, historically, is one a friend gave me dating back to circa 1900.
"It displays the heads of various monarchs. I also have a soap crown on a cushion made to mark the 1953 Coronation.
“I store the soap in various plastic tubs, drawers and two big picnic baskets in my garage. I used to list and count them all.
"One note I found dated May 1987 says I had 272 bars of soap at that time. I think my late former husband thought I was mad."Mrs Weaver says she is a "collector maniac".
She said: "I collect glass paperweights too, but I’m not parting with those. I used to collect golf balls with club logos but I gave them to a neighbour who likes golf.
"Perhaps it runs in the family because when my daughters were small one collected pencils and the other key rings.“I’ve been worrying about what will happen to my soap collection when I pop my clogs. I don’t want to leave my daughters with all this to clear away.
"I was thinking of donating them to charity. I mentioned it to a charity shop and they said to bring in two or three at a time. With 2,000 soaps that could take me years."Mrs Weaver is a voluntary worker at the Royal Derby Hospital and wondered if her collection could help the hospital too.
She said: "I kept wondering how I could dispose of the whole collection. I am not concerned about what they make, I just want to find a home for them.
"I like watching antiques shows on TV and suddenly woke up in the middle of the night with a brainwave and thought of Charles Hanson. I got in touch and he contacted me straight away."Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said It’s an "unusual find" which could get bidders "in a lather on the slippery slope to auction day".
He said: "Let’s hope bids lather up. Stephanie’s collection is totally unique. It’s not of a particularly high monetary value. I would expect it to fetch around £200."However, it’s endearing for sentimental reasons. I’ve never come across anything quite like it. Hansons has sold some small soap collections before but nothing on this scale.
"We tend to see a handful of vintage character soap gift sets kept since childhood. I have never come across anyone who collects hotel soaps, though I must admit I keep the odd hotel bar myself.
"I think most people do but only because they’re useful.“The stars in Stephanie’s collection are the soap heads from 1900 and the 1953 coronation crown soap - a timely find.
"I hope we can wash away Stephanie’s worries about her collection and ensure it cleans up at auction."The soap collection will be offered during Hansons Auctioneers’ May 18-23 Antiques and Collectors auction.