What a hoard! Fragrance fan collects rare treasures

Doreen Baxter's with her collection of 4711 perfume.
Doreen Baxter's with her collection of 4711 perfume.

RARE treasures have been collected by a Northowram woman with a fragrance fascination.

Doreen Baxter’s interest in the 4711 eau de Cologne was sparked by a postcard from the German city, its birthplace, in 1974.

Doreen Baxter's with her collection of 4711 perfume.

Doreen Baxter's with her collection of 4711 perfume.

The 76-year-old’s prize piece is a rare brass quiver, made in the 1800s to protect the original cylindrical bottles. It belonged to her aunt.

She and husband Warner, 75, discovered just how precious it was when they visited the 4711 shop and museum in Cologne last December.

Mrs Baxter, who wears the zesty unisex scent every day, said: “They said in their broken English: ‘You have got a little preciousness.’

“They were made in South Africa and India, mainly.”

Doreen Baxter's with her collection of 4711 perfume.

Doreen Baxter's with her collection of 4711 perfume.

Another rare item is a limited edition bottle made to mark the premiere of the opera Tosca in 1900.

Altogether she has around 50 products ranging from perfume, talc and soap to miniature 4711 cars, amassed from flea markets, antique shops and as gifts over nearly four decades.

“I like the bottles and the design of the labels. I think they’re very attractive and it’s a quality product,” she said.

She began collecting after a friend sent her a postcard depicting a French soldier painting ‘4711’ on a Cologne house.

Mrs Baxter, then a Sunday school teacher, wrote to the makers to ask about its history so she could teach her pupils it.

The company sent her 60 miniature bottles to give to the children and told her the house in the picture belonged to original 4711 manufacturer Wilhelm Müelhens.

His house was given the number in 1794 during the French occupation, when all the city’s homes were numbered to make it easier to billet troops.

Müelhens had been given the secret formula for a “miracle water” by a monk two years earlier as a wedding present.

The scent - originally marketed as a tonic, too - has been enduringly popular ever since.

Famous fans include the Queen Mother, Madonna and Holly Golightly in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Mrs Baxter’s knowledge has made her a sought-after public speaker and she regularly takes her collection to show Calderdale club and society meetings.

“Once you go and talk to one club you end up doing it for more than 36 years as I have,” she said.

She has never had her hoard valued, but said: “It is just valuable for what I use it for.

“It has given me a lot of pleasure and it is just nice to be able to share it with people.”