The answer is, for the most part, no, but there are plenty of pieces of royal memorabilia that can make you a king’s ransom.
Pottery celebrating a royal achievement first became a thing back in the 17th century. Fine handmade mugs made for Charles I’s coronation were seen as supremely luxurious and unashamedly patriotic. They’re also incredibly rare and can fetch well over £5000 at auction.
‘These were expensive items at the time,’ explains royal memorabilia expert James Grinter from auction house Reeman Dansie, ‘but by the late 1800s china began to be mass-produced, making it more affordable and far less rare.’
Surprisingly, even memorabilia dating back to Queen Victoria’s reign is relatively common. While early mugs and plates from her coronation can be collectible, anything celebrating her Golden or Diamond Jubilee will fetch a rather paltry £10-15.
Plates from the coronations of Kings George III, George IV and William IV can be worth hundreds of pounds, but those from more recent weddings, like that of William and Kate or Harry and Meghan, are unlikely to accrue much value. Many resell for mere pennies.
‘Don’t buy memorabilia just because you think it’s going to be an investment, because it probably won’t be,’ says James Grinter. ‘But if something was made by a top designer or was very expensive at the time, it may still be desirable. Like the Wedgwood mugs made for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation by famous postmodernist designer Eric Ravilious. They have sold for more than £2000.’
One reason that the United Kingdom is seemingly full to the brim with royal china is because the country is fortunate enough not to have been invaded and, even more fortunately for the royal family, hasn’t had a total revolution. In comparison, much of Russia and France’s royal pottery was destroyed, meaning surviving collections are far more valuable.
For real fans of the British royal family, official wedding collections aren’t at the top of the shopping list. Much more desirable are items with a personal connection to a royal. The Queen and Prince Philip regularly send autographed presentation photos of themselves as gifts to diplomats and other people of merit and these can easily reach £1500 if put up for sale. Even Christmas cards sent by the Queen can be worth hundreds, with early hand-signed versions (before the 1960s) selling for a very merry £600.
Diana remains an enduringly popular figure, so anything associated with the Princess of Wales is particularly collectible. An autographed silver-framed photo can raise up to £5000, but even more sought after are items she touched or wore.
When Diana’s childhood bedroom was cleared out, staff at her family’s stately home were told they could help themselves to her old clothing. One cook took a cheap acrylic M&S jumper with a ‘Diana Spencer’ name tag, which recently made £2,200 in auction. A hunting jacket from Harrods worn during her teenage years sold for £5,300. Even an eraser used while she was at school raised £500.
According to James Grinter, ‘both William and Harry are also very popular, so in the unlikely event that their personal items came onto the market, they would sell very well.’
If you can’t get your hands on a pair of royal underpants or an handwritten diary, there is one wedding item that does command surprisingly high prices at auction. For just £420, you can own a slice of, presumably rather stale, royal wedding cake from William’s big day complete with decorative tin.