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Royal Wedding souvenirs are already in the shops in anticipation of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Gerry Berwyn-Jones assesses the market for commemorative ware.

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Royal wedding: the antiques of the future?

Royal Wedding souvenirs are already in the shops in anticipation of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Gerry Berwyn-Jones assesses the market for commemorative ware.


Every conceivable occasion and event has been commemorated in some way or other, from coronations, weddings, war, politics (Chartism and Womens suffrage to name just two), disasters (the sinking of the Titanic being the most obvious example), sporting events and technological breakthroughs. Not only is there a bewildering array of topics to commemorate, but the materials used to fashion these commemorative products, for make no mistake they were produced by the mercantile class as a money-making exercise, were equally as extensive. Pictures, prints, textiles, furniture (much more rare), metalware (including silver and gold coins), glass and treen were and are all used. However, the most common are ceramics.
On all the valuation days in which I have participated they are the most frequently encountered object, especially 20th century Royal commemorative porcelain and pottery, celebrating occasions such as the coronation of George V or George VI. This statement alone reveals the monetary value of these mass-produced articles and yet they are still collectable!
A budding collector can buy a little transfer-printed mug or beaker for as little as 10 to 20. As with all fields, rarity, quality, hand decoration, designer/artist/modeller, factory, form and even quirkiness all play a crucial role in determining value.
Generally, the earlier the date the better. So, if the reader chances upon a 17th century slipware charger depicting Charles II hiding in the renowned (or notorious, depending on your point of view) Boscobel Oak or an English Delft William and Mary commemorative plate they should pounce on it if the price is right! This plate (left) sold in a Bonhams Bond Street sale for a hammer price of 16,000!
There are some desirable 20th century pieces. The Wedgwood mug (top) was made to commemorate the factorys change of location to Barlaston in 1940. It is printed with a bust portrait of Josiah Wedgwood (the founder), but it is the design and the designer that are the price determinants here. The designer is Eric Ravilious, the world famous artist, illustrator and designer.
A characteristic of his work is a fine stippling technique, which make his compositions irresistible to collectors. Given the typical design by this much- admired artist, the mug is expected to make between 600 and 800.
Rather poignantly this Eric Ravilious design was to be his last. As a captain in the Royal Marines he died, aged 39, in 1942 while taking part in an air-sea rescue mission off Iceland. Like so many talented creative people his life was cut short. However, what is certain is that the life and continuance of commemorative products will never cease and perhaps products commemorating the life of Ravilious will continue.



Gerry Berwyn-Jones BA (Hons) MRICS is a senior valuer and auctioneer for Bonhams International auctioneers and can be contacted on: 01564 732966 or gerry.berwynjones@bonhams.com

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