‘When I die I plan to donate my royal collection to the V&A so that the nation can see it for years to come’
With the launch of the Coronation Emblem in February, King Charles and Queen Camilla have opened the floodgates, relaxing the rules on usage of royal photographs and official insignia so as to allow anyone to produce their own Coronation merchandise. The only rules are that it must be in good taste, free from advertising and carry no implication of royal custom and approval.
Of course, in the age of eBay, some royal super fans might well be eyeing their collections and wondering how much their hoard could be worth. The good news is that you could well be sitting on a fortune. “Prolific collectors value quirky items and are willing to spend,” says Anita Lo, owner of Clara’s Box, an online store selling vintage fashion and collectibles.
Lo points to the likes of a 1660 English delftware “blue-dash” charger (celebrating the restoration of the monarchy), which sold for £105,000 at Roseberys in 2011, and Princess Diana’s “John Travolta dress”, which she wore at the White House gala dinner in 1985 and fetched £240,000 in 2013.
All that being said, the average royal watcher is unlikely to have the King’s wedding suit hidden in a drawer. “Souvenirs from coronations, royal weddings and the birth of royal babies are a great place to start,” says Lo. “Items commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation and Jubilees remain highly collectable; mugs and plates will make a small profit, but items that were made in limited quantities and therefore rarely seen on the market are far more coveted. An uncirculated £50 note, featuring Queen Elizabeth II, received bids for over £10,000 online.”
Ahead of the Coronation, it might be tempting to go out and acquire as much merchandise as possible, with an eye on selling it in the future. However, it will pay to be judicious. “Mass-produced items like mugs, tea towels and flags are highly unlikely to rise or even retain their value over time, so invest in limited-edition merchandise such as coins and stamps,” says Lo.
If you’re looking to buy something during the Coronation that will rise in value, seek out limited-edition items. “Limited-edition coins are very popular with collectors, as well as being attractive keepsakes,” says Rachel Fox, an assistant manager at South Kensington luxury pawnbroker, Suttons & Robertsons. “Gold sovereigns have been popular keepsakes and investment pieces for many years and historically increase significantly in value.
Limited-edition coins for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 sold out on the Royal Mint’s website very quickly. Keep a lookout on the Royal Mint website for when the King Charles limited-edition coins go on sale. For those who do manage to get hold of these coins, it’s really important to ensure that any collector’s piece is kept in mint condition to maximise its value over and above that of just the metal.”
As for coins in general circulation, it’s impossible to predict their future worth because the Royal Mint doesn’t release mintage figures. It’s only a few years later when it reveals that only a few thousand were released that the value will skyrocket.
“There are a lot of factors to consider when determining the value of an item,” says Hannah Webbe, coin specialist at online vintage store Vintage Cash Cow. “These include the condition of the item, its age and its scarcity.”
It’s this last one that will make Coronation merchandise worth picking up. “For most of the country, King Charles’s will be the first Coronation in a lifetime, so I think you can expect memorabilia will be more scarce and therefore more valuable than, say, a royal wedding because those happen quite frequently,” Webbe continues.
Unfortunately, hindsight is an important factor in how much money you might be able to generate from your royal collectibles. If the person being celebrated on your commemorative medal scuppers their reputation, don’t expect the item to fetch as much as one bearing the image of a member of the Royal family with a spotless standing.
“There is a correlation between value and public perception,” says Webbe. “Princess Diana is considered one of the more popular royals, so the market for her collectibles is much larger. In contrast, Prince Andrew is a bit less admired at the moment and that translates to the value of collectibles based around his name.”
There are circumstances that will make the manufacturing of a product worth more too. “Anything with a revised date usually fetches more than an original date. For example when Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, their wedding date was delayed due to the death of Pope John Paul II,” adds Fox. “Memorabilia was already made by this point, and could not be changed, so anything with the amended date on it will be worth a little more than the original.”
If you do have royal merch that you’re looking to sell, then now is a good time to do it. Increased visibility for the Royal family during the Coronation will almost certainly spur interest from collectors. Around Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, searches for memorabilia on Google doubled. Similarly, around what would have been Princess Diana’s 60th birthday, merchandise commemorating her saw a rise in value.
Among all this there is one forgotten element: taste. “Personal preference is extremely important in collecting,” says Webbe. “Taste is so crucial to what is and what isn’t collectible. If you like something, there’s probably a good chance someone else will like it too. That’s a huge factor that people forget about in the resale market.”
‘I have a very good collection – it’s all limited-edition’
I don’t have a massive collection like some people out there, but I’d say I have a very good collection. It’s all limited-edition stuff that is worth collecting. I’m primarily interested in coins and porcelain, but I don’t buy things to make money; I’m not a collector in that sense. My reason for doing it is the love of it; I love the Royal family and I love what artists can do with metal and porcelain. That’s what I think about – all the design and the hard work that goes into it.
I think I got my interest in the Royal family from my mother. When I was a child she would always read magazines about the Royal family to me. Her favourite was Princess Margaret; she’d tell me about her exploits, about Peter Townsend and everything. I always wanted to hear about them.
I only properly started collecting in the early 1990s. I was picking up cups and china from charity shops, just because I was interested and it seemed good to be able to get a cup from George V’s Coronation in 1911 for 50p, but people started telling me I was picking up some bargains and I got hooked.
For the upcoming Coronation I’ll be camping out on the Mall with my friends, but I’ve already got the special thing that I wanted to buy: a commemorative coin from the Royal Mint. It cost me about £500 and there are only 650 of them in the world, so I was very pleased to get number 228.
For those who want to start collecting, I would recommend visiting the Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Collection shop on Buckingham Palace Road, plus you can find some good things at the Westminster Abbey shop. These places are where you’ll find the new limited-edition stuff.
Beyond that, I’d recommend hunting around charity shops – we have such a culture of collecting in the UK, but when people pass away their families often take things to charity shops so they’re a good place to start. I also use eBay and online sites from time to time, but you have to be very careful because often people put stuff up there that isn’t quite as advertised.
I have no idea how much my collection is worth. I’d have to get it all out and go through it, but it doesn’t matter to me – I’d never sell it.
When I die I plan to donate it all to the V&A so that the nation can see it for years to come.