A mug’s game – Royal memorabilia that’s worth a mint

Treasured tea cups and precious plates adorn many a sideboard and display cabinet, but is your Royal memorabilia worth anything?

Last year we spent a collective £163million on souvenirs to celebrate the nuptials of William and Kate, but that wasn’t enough to stop us buying – with the Olympics following the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, 2012 is set to go down as an even bigger year.

The Centre for Retail Research reckons about a third of the £1billion pumped in to the UK economy as a result of these national celebrations will come from the sale of souvenirs and related merchandise snapped up by fans, devotees and collectors.

So, for those of us who can’t resist a commemorative mug or some other suitably adorned souvenir, the question has to be: Will our patriotism be royally rewarded should we ever wish to part with our treasures mementoes?

A mug’s game?

The problem any collector of royal memorabilia has is one of quantity.

Because the royal family is not protected by a trademark, anyone can produce items using the names and images of the royals, which does make it something of a ‘free for all’. This undoubtedly creates problems for anyone who jumps on the mass-produced bandwagon.

A mug celebrating the Royal Wedding picturing Prince Harry by mistake. Image Hugh Pinney/Getty Images

A quick scout on eBay and you’ll see that mugs from the Queen's 1952 Coronation, which you might think was long enough ago to give it some rarity, are actually in plentiful supply and as a result available to pick up for a few quid. Glasses, biscuit tins and commemorative spoons don’t fare any better.

But mugs are not a royal write-off per se. If you find a Queen Victoria Coronation mug in perfect condition in your possession then you’re on to a winner. They can fetch as much as £800.

Limited editions are the most valuable, and obviously the more limited the edition, the better your chances having a hidden treasure in your possession.

The advice from Hugh Jefferies from alternative investment company Stanley Gibbons, is to keep an eye out for anything from much earlier royal celebrations.

His key find would be a stamp from George V’s silver jubilee. The 2½d Prussian blue stamp should have been printed in ultramarine, but a few sheets came out in the wrong shade. They were released to the Post Office by mistake and lucky collectors who bought them at face value or find them in collections of their relatives are now sitting on stamps that can fetch a staggering £12,000 each.

Stamps, however, are not an out and out winner by any means. As Adrian Roose from Paul Fraser Collectibles based in Bristol, says: To this day stamp albums from the 1981 wedding of Charles & Diana lie unloved in attics, barely worth the paper they were printed on.”

Souvenirs of the Prince and Princess of Wales' wedding from Denby tableware. Image PA


And it’s much the same with coins. The majority are worth little more than the price they originally sold for. But again there is one exception that appears to break all the rules of rarity - and indeed age - and that’s the official gold coin struck to commemorate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Admittedly little to do with its royal connections, the value of the coin, which went on retail sale at £1,750 last year is now £3,000 – all thanks to the rising gold price.

Nick Scargill holds a £1 coin in front of one the Royal Mint's 22 carat gold 'kilo' coins. Image PA

Do you Dubonnet?

If you failed to spot that particular bargain of a buy last Spring, it’s time to take a look through your great aunt’s box of memorabilia for something else that could be a winner.

Far and away the most sought-after of royal items are those that have been ‘touched by royalty’. Think letters, invitations, souvenir programmes and the like. 

It is not royal protocol to give autographs, so anything signed by a member of the royal family will always command a high price from collectors.

A note in which the Queen Mother asked for her aide to pack her gin and Dubonnet sold for £16,000, while a note from Diana, Princess of Wales, to her butler William Tallon after the birth of Prince William sold for £5,000.

So carefully check the scrawl for a royal hand before discarding any old letters you might find amongst your relatives’ possessions. And indeed anything else you might find.

Have your cake, just don’t eat it

The person who happened upon a piece of old wedding cake tucked away in an old chest of drawers could never have dreamed that what they’d just found was a piece of our very own Queen’s wedding cake. It went on to sell for a staggering £1,100.

And don’t discount what some might consider ‘tat’ at first glance. As the proud owners of the Spitting Image-inspired Luck and Flaw Maggie Thatcher teapot know all too well one man’s tat is very much another man’s treasure. Sometimes the most bizarre of collectables make it on to the ‘most desirable’ lists.

Take the Royal Wedding Pop-up Book produced at the time of Charles and Diana’s wedding which now sells for an astonishing price – as much as £115 if you have a brand new unopened copy. It may not be a huge fortune, but it’s a start.