When my great aunt died, I remember going through her attic and finding boxes upon boxes of royal memorabilia. Old newspapers, napkins, programmes of the coronation. It was fascinating. A real glimpse at history: social and monarchical. I remember at the time checking online to see if the collection had any monetary value and was surprised at how little some of these ancient pieces were worth. However, there were two items worth hundreds. I didn’t sell them, but it got me wondering how much modern royal memorabilia may be worth.
In the wake of HRM Queen Elizabeth’s passing last week, we are all hyper-aware that we are living through a momentous time, historically and politically. The longest-reigning monarch was on the throne for seventy years, meaning that for approximately twenty per cent of the population of the UK we have never before lived through this kind of transition. It is so rare that the last time it happened, Britain was still using rations, television was a huge, new, cutting-edge technology, and Britain still (embarrassingly) had colonies.
We can see the gravitas of this event, if only for its rarity. It is therefore fair to imagine that Friday’s newspapers may be worth something; our coins with QEII’s face on now won’t last forever, and our life and the things we took for granted until this point are about to change. While we cover the changes here, we take the time to explore what the potential value of current and past royal memorabilia may hold.
- People started collecting royal memorabilia in the 1960s – the advent of TV and mass media promoted interest in the Royals
- The earliest commemorative ceramics date from the 17th century and probably Charles II – a delft piece celebrating the restoration of the monarchy sold for £105,000 in 2011
“ordinary coins aren’t valuable in themselves just for having the Queen’s image on them. Valuable coins are those which are rare”
Having spoken to three different collectors, they have all said much the same thing.
- They have seen increased interest in coins featuring the Queen’s image, but collectors think this is mostly people being sentimental, rather than looking to make money (a difference between collecting for investment and collecting mementos). One shop in York has seen a big increase in the purchase of gold sovereigns featuring the Queen, with prices from £10-£300.
- Collecting coins is a market-led investment, e.g. there wasn’t a great deal of interest in Princess Diana commemorative coins minted in 1999 but now they are in huge demand in the Japanese market, which has pushed up their value.
- The takeaway comment, however, is that ‘ordinary’ coins aren’t valuable in themselves just for having the Queen’s image on them. Valuable coins are those which are rare because they have a particular design, were limited edition or have “errors” on them (e.g. the swimming coin from the 2012 Olympics, where 600 with a slightly different image of the swimmer’s face were released by mistake.)
- According to Which?, the commemorative 50p minted for the Jubilee could become valuable as it was a very limited edition run of coins. As of May, there were only just over 1 million in circulation. There is one listed on eBay at the moment for £450.
- It’s a buyer’s/bidder’s market.
- The Lad Bible (and other outlets) have a story of one person listing an uncirculated £50 note featuring the Queen’s image for £10,000 – which currently has a bid of £10,600! The auction ends in 5 days… There are lots of listings on eBay around the same price (£8k, £9k).
NB: before listing coins or notes on ebay or other auction sites, check that they are what you think they are, on sites like Coin Hunter, Change in my Pocket or, even better, the Royal Mint itself.
For Reference/Good to know
- The hobby of collecting very rare coins is called numismatics.
- Warwick and Warwick have a useful guide to the difference types of commemorative coins here.
- Papers from Friday 9th September are already being listed on eBay – broadsheets for over £100, tabloids for £10-£15. A copy of the Evening Standard is on for £999.99.
- Mugs can be valuable but only if they are limited edition and made by e.g. Wedgwood. Tea towels can be resold for a profit but only if unused and in really good condition (they might sell for £5-£10).
- Dedicated collectors focus on slightly stranger items: five dog collars and a lead owned by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor sold for $1680 in 2008 in New York. A box full of cake (very old cake!) turned up on the Antiques Roadshow in 2021 – each individually wrapped and labelled with the details of the event from which it had come, and all related to Queen Victoria & Albert and their family. It was valued at £5000.
- According to a recent survey, the most valuable memorabilia is from the Queen’s Coronation. Mugs and plates in particular tend to make a profit. Following that, searches have tended to be for the Platinum Jubilee, Charles and Diana and then the Silver Jubilee.
QEII on Ebay as of today:
- Lots of mugs and plates are going for £20-£50 .
- Vintage Royal Memorabilia books (12) – current bid is at £51.
- Platinum souvenir ceramic plate – listed for £1250 (no bids).
- Signed Christmas card from Elizabeth and Phillip from 2001 is listed for £3500.
Recently sold on Ebay:
- Signature went for £1200.
- Another signed Christmas card sold for £1153.26.
- Platinum Jubilee order of service £150.
- Another Platinum Jubilee plate £1500.
- Christmas 2008 gift from the Queen £315 (looks like a frame and a silver box).
- Collection of signed Christmas cards £999.00.
- Rare 1973 Doulton figure of the Queen £165.
- Queen Platinum Jubilee Barbie selling for £330 – £990, average £490.
- Charles and Diana wedding invite sold for £699.99 in August.
- 1981 Charles & Diana Royal Wedding commemorative coin sold for £851.74 a few days ago.
- There are plenty of listings for Diana, from papers from the day she died to money boxes and magazines.
- Chinaware made by the Royal Collection could be valuable if in good condition and especially if they are rare, e.g. set made for William and Kate’s wedding – only 1000 made and in April 2018 a set sold for £739 on eBay.
- Coronation coach from Queen’s coronation has fetched up £1000 at auction.
- Mugs designed by Eric Ravilious are valuable with some going for £100-£500.
In short, there is a surge right now as people rush to buy (and sell) their memorabilia but according to some experts, collecting is a long game and items in good condition, and of which there aren’t lots (i.e. not mass-produced) will increase in value over the coming months and years. There is money to be made as people are emotional and nostalgic right now, but that won’t last.