published Monday, November 28th, 2011

Items in '12 Days of Christmas' now top $100K

PITTSBURGH — The price of partridges, pear trees and turtle doves has spiked, pushing the cost of every item mentioned in the carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" above $100,000 for the first time.

Holding mostly steady this year: maids-a-milking, ladies dancing, lords-a-leaping and gold rings.

The 364 items repeated across all the song's verses would cost $101,119, an increase of 4.4 percent over last year, according to the annual Christmas Price Index compiled by PNC Wealth Management. The broader government Consumer Price Index increased by 3.9 percent over the same period.

Those with the money to spend would end up with 12 drummers drumming, 22 pipers piping, 30 lords-a-leaping, 36 ladies dancing, 40 maids-a-milking, 42 swans-a-swimming, 42 geese-a-laying, 40 gold rings, 36 calling birds, 30 French hens, 22 turtle doves, and 12 partridges in pear trees. (The price does not include bird maintenance.)

But buying just one set of each verse in the song will cost $24,263 this year — a moderate 3.5 percent rise.

Eleven pipers piping will set you back $2,427, but that's a relative bargain compared to seven swans-a-swimming, which cost $6,300. That's a 12.5 percent rise over last year.

Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investment for PNC Wealth Management, said the core rate of increase is less than half the 9.2 percent jump last year.

"The story in general is wages are still a very sluggish part of this economy," said Dunigan, who noted that the price of eight maids-a-milking at minimum wage was $58 — the same as in 2009.

Five gold rings even declined a bit, Dunigan said, to $645, from $650 last year.

But last-minute shoppers who turn to the Internet may be in for some surprises. The core list that costs about $24,000 in stores will come to $39,860 online — a whopping 16.1 percent increase over Internet prices last year. Dunigan said the high cost of shipping live birds explains some of the difference.

Six items didn't go up in cost this year: French hens, calling birds, gold rings, maids-a-milking, ladies dancing and lords-a-leaping. Pipers piping and drummers drumming rose 3 percent. The partridge is still the cheapest item, at $15, and swans the most expensive.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. checks jewelry stores, dance companies, pet stores and other sources to compile the list. Some of its sources this year include the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Ballet Company.

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