24/05/2022 General News
David Broom marks this month’s Jubilee celebrations by exploring the world of Royal Commemoratives.
As the nation celebrates the remarkable achievement of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, unsurprisingly we have been seeing a lot of royal memorabilia – or ‘commemoratives’ as they are known in the trade.
Given the affection for the Queen, it is inevitable that people who still have items which were made to mark the beginning of her reign will be wondering about their value. It is certainly collectable, but that on its own doesn’t guarantee a high price at auction.
Aside from good condition, the factor which will determine price above all else is rarity, and that is where many modern-day royal commemoratives fall down. Most of the items created to mark royal events in the 20th century were made in significant quantities, which means there are still many examples around. That means that even coronation china pieces are unlikely to fetch more than a few pounds at auction.
Even those sold as part of a ‘limited edition’ were generally manufactured in such quantity that they are also relatively common and therefore of not huge value.
There are, happily, some exceptions: some of the commemorative mugs designed by artists such as Dame Laura Knight and Richard Guyatt for Wedgwood sell for £40-£50. Rarer still is the wall charger produced by Poole Pottery to mark the Queen’s coronation; only 25 of these were made, and today an example would fetch around £500.
Of greater value still are royal commemoratives from earlier centuries, not least because they were not mass produced in the same way. A few years back a rare late 18th century Lowestoft porcelain mug inscribed ‘Long Live The King’ sold at auction for £5,300.
But the real money in royal memorabilia is to be made where there is provenance linking the item to a member of the Royal family itself.
For example, in 2021 we sold for £1,600 a small group of Edward VIII memorabilia, including his walking cane, a signed photo and Christmas labels, which the King gave to his valet, who continued to work for him after his abdication. Incidentally, many people believe that commemoratives relating to Edward VIII will be more valuable as he was king for such a short time; in actual fact, pieces were made in just as large numbers for this monarch as the others who reigned in the 20th century.
A couple of years back, we sold a collection of letters from Queen Alexandria to her Lady in Waiting which had been kept by her family, for £4,000. For both this lot and the Edward VIII collection the provenance was clear and traceable.
Some time ago a lady showed me a china cup and saucer which was given by the late Queen Mother to her father, a police officer, while he was on duty one Christmas Eve at Sandringham. It was a nice story, and the item clearly had considerable sentimental value for the lady concerned, but without any provenance, it would not have made much at auction.