Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn looks at commemorative ware celebrating signifiant dates in history...
My brain seems to have a fondness for dates. Did you know that we’re currently in the middle of some very significant anniversaries?
15th August was the 250th anniversary of the birth of Napoleon, and on the 26th it’ll be 200 years since the birth of Prince Albert. As May saw both the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria (26th), plus the 250th of the birth of the Duke of Wellington on the 1st, that’s a pretty impressive quartet!
Marking significant royal, military and political dates with memorabilia has grown in popularity since the 17th century, when plates were honoured the return of the monarchy with Charles II.
Unusual even then, they are now extremely valuable.
Queen Victoria’s reign marked the capitalisation of the lucrative mass market for royal commemorative ware. Original Victoria coronation mugs can be worth over £500 today, but beware: much apparently antique commemorative ware is actually much later reproduction.
Because so much is mass produced (and often poor quality), plates and mugs especially really don’t accrue much value, even from the early 20th century. Excited collectors in the centre often think they’ll make their fortune with an Edward VIII coronation mug. Even though he abdicated in 1936, before being crowned, so many were mass produced, they are still only worth a few pounds.
Limited edition, odd, seemingly throwaway, or very personal items hold the most value, including surprisingly recent pieces. A piece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold for over £1,000 recently. Coca Cola commemorated the wedding with limited edition bottles; unopened ones fetch over £50 each today!
This mug is a good example of a less common royal collectable.
Commemorating Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales (another anniversary: 50 years ago last month!), far fewer were produced than for coronations, weddings, or jubilees.
It is on sale for £10. Few commemorative items were produced for the birth of Harry and Meghan’s Archie earlier this year.
Even though he’s not directly in line to the throne, this rarity, coupled with his parents’ popularity, means these could be a good tip to tuck away for the future.