Commemorative memorabilia is an easy and collectible way of saying God Save the Queen (or King)!
A monarch’s 90th birthday has never come before in the royal line of Great Britain, but on June 11th, 2016, the annual Trooping the Colour, celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s official 90th birthday (her actual date of birth is April 21) during the 64th year of her reign. This impressive display of pageantry features the Queen’s personal troops, the Household Division, on Horse Guards Parade, with Her Majesty attending and taking the salute.
Six potteries in Stoke-on-Trent will be commemorating the historic event with hand-decorated bone china cups, saucers, plates, and more. The Royal Collection Trust, which markets the commissioned pieces has had a busy five years with commemoratives for a royal wedding, a Jubilee, and two royal births.
Souvenirs commemorating royal events have been made and collected in Great Britain and the Empire since the 17th century. Coronations, weddings, births, anniversaries, royal visits, and Jubilees, are among the subjects of thousands of memorabilia. Because they were created as souvenirs, pieces from Victoria’s reign (1837-1901) and since are generally easy to find and reasonably priced. Royal commemoratives created prior to 1837 are scarce and expensive.
Official or sanctioned collectibles tend to be conservative in nature: china pieces, crystal, spoons, medallions, pins, books, and programmes.
Souvenirs for other 20th century monarchs are not difficult to find online and at flea markets in the UK, with prices usually reflective of scarcity and condition.
In addition to officially sanctioned commemoratives, companies and civic organizations have produced their own products celebrating royal events. This album and collectible premium stamps marking George VI’s coronation were available through W.D. & H.O. Wills tobacco company, a company that pioneered the use of cigarette cards within their packaging.
The album celebrates the coronation with 50 collector cards detailing the King’s life since he began public duties as a naval cadet.
Coronation, anniversary, and Jubilee (silver, gold, and diamond) commemoratives for Queen Elizabeth II are still popular, reasonably plentiful, and affordable. Although a few items, like this cast iron and bronze coronation chair money box from 1953, are harder to find.
I could literally go on forever about this stuff. But for your sake, I’ll just highlight a few of my favorites. I had to cut quite a few out…
Wait, one more. Who doesn’t love the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge?
Three pieces—a tankard, plate, and pill box—were made by the Royal Collection in Stoke-on-Trent to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. The English fine bone china was embellished with several layers of burnished gold and platinum before a final layer of gilding in 22-carat gold was applied. Additional commemorative items have been produced at the births of each of their children, Prince George (2013) and Princess Charlotte (2015).
Interest in the events and activities of the royal family of the UK shows no sign of waning so it’s a safe bet that commemorative objects will continue to be produced (some rather silly—I have a Diamond Jubilee solar-powered waving Queen Elizabeth figurine) and collected. Limited edition items will always have greater value in the long term but mass-produced pieces are often more fun and irreverent. Collect what suits your purpose and personality and lift a cuppa now and then to an ancient institution that still manages to fascinate in the modern world.
Queen Elizabeth shares a birthday with another lovable icon that turns 90 this year. Winnie-the-Pooh celebrates his 9th decade with a new story in which he travels to London to see Her Majesty. I’ve loved the Winnie-the-Pooh stories since childhood and still get a kick out of them—I think Piglet may be my spirit animal. Get the free download of this charming tale here.
© Caruth Studio