Monday, November 22, 2010

Collecting Royal Treasures

Gladys Yeomans, 93, holds a piece of her Royal family memorabilia, a tin covered with the image of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. - Gladys Yeomans, 93, holds a piece of her Royal family memorabilia, a tin covered with the image of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. | Deddeda Stemler for The Globe and Mail

Royal memorabilia:


From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

   Gladys Yeomans’s hobby started, innocently enough, with a small silver spoon commemorating King George VI taking the throne in 1936. Her collection of British Royal Family memorabilia has grown so large that she has lost count of just how many hundreds of mugs and spoons she owns. “I have a nice big room downstairs and it’s just chock full. And I’ve got some upstairs. I’m running over,” says Ms. Yeomans, 93, who lives on Vancouver Island.
   Her collection will soon be taking up even more room. Like many collectors, Ms. Yeomans is eager to acquire souvenirs of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.

   The race to produce wedding souvenirs is already on: plates, mugs, T-shirts, commemorative dinnerware and thimbles adorned with the couple’s faces have quickly made their way to market just days after the announcement of their engagement. Royal Crown Derby, a British-based manufacturer of fine bone china, has launched a range of commemorative items, including a loving cup, heart tray and octagonal plate, each decorated with a William and Catherine monogram and inscription. Other manufacturers, including Royal Doulton, Wedgewood and Aynsley are also expected to soon roll out their own commemorative lines.The sheer volume of memorabilia means that so much of what is made has little to no resale value. You have to go back to Queen Victoria taking the throne in 1837 to find objects that have increased in value, says Chris Green, an Ottawa-based appraiser.

   “You can still find things from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, George V, George VI – they’re all still by and large relatively inexpensive. It’s simply because it was mass produced to such a degree,” he says.And because the Royal Family doesn’t trademark itself, anyone is free to produce merchandise bearing their names or likenesses, which means there is no distinction between licensed and unlicensed merchandise – an important distinction in the world of collecting.

   “It’s basically a free-for-all,” says Richard Rosewell, owner of Mildred’s Memorabilia Antiques, in Qualicum Beach, B.C.

   Although it is impossible to say how much Will and Kate’s wedding memorabilia will ultimately generate, the wedding could add nearly $1-billion to the British economy, according to Verdict Research, which provides analysis of the retail industry. And all those mugs, plates, thimbles, tea towels and other knick-knacks will likely find many buyers in commonwealth countries such as Canada.

   Ms. Yeomans has spoons and pieces of pottery commemorating every royal from Prince Edward, Queen Victoria’s father, down to a cup commemorating one of Prince Williams’s recent birthdays.
While such items may not have a high resale value, pieces from Prince William’s wedding itself will have diehard collectors willing to pay a king’s ransom.

   “Anything rare that was actually part of the wedding can be quite valuable,” Mr. Rosewell says.
Some collectors have already let it be known just how much they are willing to shell out to get their hands on such items.

    “There hasn't been such interest since the late Princess Diana died,” says Alicia Carroll, owner of Everything Royal, a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in royal memorabilia.

   “I was offered $10,000 [U.S.] if I can obtain, after the fact, a wedding invitation, an invitation to the prewedding breakfast and the souvenir program,” Ms. Carroll says.

   Invitations sent to members of the Royal Family, other royals and heads of state and other close family friends will be worth the most valuable, she says. Their value, however, will depend on the size of the wedding. The smaller the wedding, the more invitations will be worth, she says.

   How do these items make their way from the big event to collectors’ trophy cases? It helps to know the right people. “I know four people that are being invited. I called them all and said, ‘Save everything for me!’ ” Ms. Carroll says. And, having been a royal commemorative dealer for 30+ years,  everything eventually ends up at my doorstep."

   Caroline Davenport  one of Ms. Carroll’s clients  and close friend has been collecting Diana, Princess of Wales, memorabilia for the past 13 years. Her collection of nearly 300 items includes signed Christmas cards, photographs given to foreign dignitaries and Halcyon Days boxes and enamel objets d’art Diana and Prince Charles gave to their staff over the years. One of her most cherished pieces is a silver alms dish Diana gave to her staff as a Christmas gift in 1992, the year she and Charles announced their legal separation.

   “It was a little joke of, ‘Ha, ha. We’re all going to be out of a job soon, so you might be on a street corner needing this.’ It shows her delightful sense of humour,” Ms. Davenport says.

   Ms. Davenport also owns a letter Diana wrote on her honeymoon to one of her five bridesmaids. She consideres this the most prized piece in her collection. Ms. Davenport collects items because she personally admires Diana. But it helps to know that most items in the collection will increase in value. “I absolutely love it. I just love it. The more expensive pieces, though, it’s not so much that I buy it for investment. But because they will hold their value or increase in value, the really, really, really rare stuff – I can justify my spending habit,” she says.

   She is biding her time to get her hands on an invitation to the wedding, an invitation to the luncheon afterward or even entrance tickets to the abbey. “If you fight with people who get the very first one available, you’re going to spend a tremendous amount of money,” she says. Of course, if you really need to satisfy the urge, you can always buy that new set of thimbles featuring Kate Middleton gamely smiling in a variety of hats.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

Would be intersting to know exactly where Ms, Davenport "Lectures" and from what University she recived her degree in Royal History? My understanding is she is just another American collector. Your website shoud be more specific.