Should you invest in Royal memorabilia?

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will be marked with patriotic celebrations, outpourings of emotion – and a glut of Royal souvenirs flooding the market. If the whole patriotic buying spree seems to have come round again terribly quickly, you can blame the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – we spent a collective £163 million on souvenirs for last year’s Royal Wedding

Is it worth your while investing in any of this memorabilia? NMTBP finds out

Queen Victoria started it all

Queen Elizabeth II is only the second monarch in history to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, the other being Queen Victoria in 1897. The commemorative market began in her reign when few subjects knew what the monarch looked like so they bought a mantelpiece mug. Cups from her coronation in 1838 are rare – so more valuable – and can fetch £1,000. In her Diamond Jubilee year, lots of mugs were made and these can still be picked  up for less than £20

Therein lies the problem

The problem with royal items today is that they are too mass-produced, and consequently there’s enormous supply in the market. Today there are 11 ‘Charles and Diana’ tea towels on eBay, including some with a Buy It Now price of £5. Golden and Silver Jubilee items fare scarcely better, with mugs and medals barely reaching £10. Not until you go back to the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 is there any rarity value

‘What about items made for the coronation of Edward VIII?’ we hear you ask. ‘Surely they’re rare as the coronation never took place?’ Sadly not. As with this weekend’s Diamond Jubilee, everything was made well in advance and in large numbers, so items aren’t that rare

Is there any value to be had?

Though most of the memorabilia will be worthless junk, not just because of quantity but also because of dubious quality, a few items could become valuable. As with any other memorabilia, the key to finding a worthwhile investment is to seek out rare pieces with future appeal

Go for rarity - The Royal family doesn’t trademark itself, which means that anyone can have a go at producing royal items. Because of this, royal memorabilia is a free-for-all – so widely produced that it is hard for anything to appreciate in value. If you want to make money, go for rarity. Strictly limited editions are the best buys. Values could rise ten per cent due to a patriotic wave of interest this year alone. Mugs are the most collectable because of their aesthetic appeal, but it is important to find a good make

With stamps, the more limited the edition, the better. Jersey produced a tiny run of stamps with diamonds in them that sold out immediately and are expected to remain covetable in the future. Stanley Gibbons is selling a first-day cover of just 250 for £16.96. Two silver jubilee stamps are for sale on the Stanley Gibbons website for £40

A host of ordinary Jubilee postage stamp sets are also being issued this year. Like most of the commemoratives, they are unlikely ever to be worth much – unless they contain errors. The last printing error on a Royal stamp issue was for the wedding of Edward and Sophie in 1999, where the perforation machine stopped working for a handful of stamps. If you find one of these 52p stamps, it is an investment now worth about £1,500. That pales in comparison with the famous ‘Prussian Blue’ stamp issued for the Diamond Jubilee of George V in 1937. Again, there was a mistake at the printers, Harrison & Son, who used the wrong ink to print a batch of stamps. They realised their error and destroyed all but six sheets which had already managed to get included in ‘good’ stock. The ersult? A 2 1/2d (old money!) stamp sold this year for £10,000

be warned - the term ‘official’ means nothing. Only ‘Royal Collection’ china is personally approved by the Queen. The Royal Collection is releasing a Diamond Jubilee Limited Edition range of fine bone china pieces finished with 22-carat gold leaf. The £250 teapot is in great demand, particularly overseas. With a limited edition of only 500 pots being made they could have investment appeal. Another Royal Collection item that may attract investors is a limited edition of 1,000 Diamond Jubilee Loving Cups costing £175 each. The two-handled loving cup has traditionally appealed to Royal collectors as they are easily broken and this increases rarity. A small chip or crack can render ceramic pieces almost worthless

Make sure it’s quality - If you’re buying an investment piece, look for quality as well as rarity. If you’re buying china, choose Royal Worcester or Royal Crown Derby or other quality producers. Other collectable firms include Wedgwood, Royal Delft, Coalport, Spode, Moorcroft and the now-defunct Shelley.  A Spode limited edition two-handled loving cup to celebrate the Queen’s silver wedding anniversary is worth £275 while a limited edition silver Jubilee Coalport vase can cost £550. They cost only a few pounds when new

Consider bullion - Those who invested in the official gold coin struck to celebrate the most recent Royal Wedding have been laughing all the way to the bank. Its value has risen by 70 per cent. The Scoin shop, which runs a series of retail outlets selling gold coins, said that the £1,750 product had been its fastest-selling coin. The current selling price of the coin is £3,000, thanks to rising gold prices. The reason the coin has been a good investment has everything to do with its composition. Buying royal coins is a punt on the price of gold and it makes sense for everyone to hold some investment in bullion coins. An ordinary Jubilee coin may be cheaper, at £12.99 from the Royal Mint website, but the gold version at £2,400 could end up the better investment. The Scoin shop is selling 400 sets of Commonwealth Jubilee gold coins for £8,250 each set. One of the coins has a diamond embedded in it, while a silver set, with no diamond, is available for £299.

Keep it in mint condition - In the same way as toy collectors are urged to keep their products in the packaging, if you invest in royal memorabilia must keep it as pristine as possible. Imperfections that you may not even notice could have a devastating effect on the value of your investment

Look outside celebrations

The real money in the royal family lies away from teh world of commemorative memorabilia produced for celebrations. There is a strong market in documentation signed by any particular King or Queen can easily evoke all the events which happened during their reign.

The most allure naturally lies with those who made the greatest mark on history - during the Tudor period this is basically Henry VIII and Elizabeth I - though from an historical point of view Henry VII and Mary I are just as interesting figures, and documents signed by Edward VI will always command a vast price because of their rarity. The Tudors always remain high in price and will continue to do so

Of the later Monarchs, again the value lies in the more glamorous figures such as Charles II ( a wanted poster for his capture, not even signed, recently sold for £33,000), rather than the solid administrators such as George I and George II. Charles I will always be a draw because he was the only one who lost his head while George III will also continue to be highly sought-after because he was the last King of America. Victoria has recently vastly increased in value, mainly because there’s been a total re-evaluation of the Victorian Age which is now seen as an era of supreme scientific achievement, considerable social reform, and an era which spawned the likes of Dickens, Browning, Elgar, Darwin amongst many others. Post Victoria, the main man is Edward VIII because of his abdication

Often the lure of Monarchs is somewhat overshadowed by the allure of those who wanted to be Monarchs but never made it - such as Bonnie Prince Charlie and Oliver Cromwell

In modern times it is the quirky items that make money. A slice of the Queen’s wedding cake, found in a filing cabinet at a hospice, sold for £1,100 earlier this year. Anything signed will have a value, while letters can fetch large sums. A note from Diana, Princess of Wales, to her butler William Tallon after the birth of Prince William sold for £5,000 while a note in which the Queen Mother asked for her aide to pack her gin and Dubonnet sold for £16,000. Cheers!

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June 01, 2012

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