Posted by Christopher White on 15/04/2023
As the United Kingdom approaches its second Carolean era with the crowning of His Majesty King Charles III on 6th May, an opportunity is soon to arrive that hasn’t ever been available to most: the chance to acquire Coronation collectibles.
Unless you were already collecting back in early June 1953 – the date of the late Queen’s Coronation – then this will be your first coronation of a member of the British Royal Family. In this article, we’ll be looking at what sort of souvenirs were produced for coronations through the ages, what to look for in coronation souvenirs, and what coronation collectibles you can find right here on Antiques.co.uk.
What are commemorative coronation souvenirs?
As a nation, on the whole, we’re highly interested in royalty – and as antique collectors, we have even more of an investment: after all, items are by and large categorised by the era of the reigning monarch at the time of its production.
So it’s no surprise that there has been an appetite for commemorative souvenirs for hundreds of years. These gifts and collectibles were, and remain, remembrances of times when procession, pageants, firework displays, street parties and sports celebrated the coronation of a new King or Queen. Some could be bought while others were 'awarded' to young people, to be kept as a reminder of events that were high points in their lives.
The Royal Family are never slow to miss a chance to capitalise on an occasion with new products, whether it’s a jubilee, birth, marriage or coronation – and you’ll find a huge array of commemorative pieces produced in connection with all of them (here’s a fascinating history of royal coronations).
It’s highly unlikely that William the Conqueror (or the Bastard, if you prefer) had any commemorative items made for sale: according to Hurstville Museum, the first instance of royal memorabilia being created can be traced back to 1661, with items such as pieces of chinaware made to order for the coronation of King Charles II.
Queen Elizabeth II: the stratospheric rise of coronation memorabilia
To commemorate the first ever coronation to be televised and shown around the world, a staggeringly large number of souvenirs were produced. This fascinating film by British Pathe shows the British public taking a look at some of these souvenirs from the coronation, which include medals, brooches, mirrors, portraits, chinaware, pens, coins, glass and jewellery. There’s even a woman wearing a Coronation necklace whilst holding her Coronation handbag, and a man wearing a Coronation tie pin. Virtually anything could be – and was – packed decoratively, even pencils and paint boxes for children and tinned biscuits and chocolates.
Stephen Kelly, a young boy at the time of the Queen’s Coronation, reminisced: “We got a commemorative Coronation mug. I think we were given it at school and I think my mum bought a book with the order of the Coronation service in it.”
Coronations: fun facts
If you’ve ever eaten Coronation Chicken, then you’ve been a part of the legacy of the late Queen: it was invented for foreign guests who were to be entertained after her Coronation, and was invented by florist Constance Spry, whose proposed recipe won the approval of the Minister of Works.
And, according to the show's backstory, the fictional Coronation Street was built in 1902, and named after the Coronation of King Edward VII.
Anniversaries of coronations are also a good opportunity to produce yet more commemorative items, such as limited edition stamps from Royal Mail, and coins from the Royal Mint.
Edward VII and George V & VI collectibles
For the Coronations of Edward VII in 1902 and George V in 1911, royal souvenirs had become big business. An abundance of items like chocolate, biscuit, tea and tobacco tins were widely available as were colourful postcards, medals and flags.
1937 saw the crowning of George VI and a wider range of branded souvenirs such as Cusson’s talcum powder, Cadbury’s and Fry’s. As you might expect, his older brother doesn’t feature as he abdicated before he was crowned (unfortunately, souvenirs for Edward’s coronation had already been produced by the time he made his shock announcement).
We have some great pieces from these coronations on Antiques.co.uk. Check out this Edward VII commemorative pocket knife and Coalport plate, or for an actual piece of history, this original George VI Coronation stool and Coronation chair – which would have been used at Westminster Abbey (the latter comes with an original official souvenir programme).
The most valuable royal memorabilia
As mentioned earlier, royal memorabilia dates back to the reign of Charles II, and it’s no surprise that collectibles from this period can be the rarest and most expensive. A charger (a large, decorative plate that acts as a base for other dinnerware) dated to 1660 commemorating the restoration of the monarchy sold in 2011 for over £100,000. A William III coronation charger from 1690 sold for £7,800; and a George II coronation charger sold for £7,600 at auction in 2015.
Affordable royal memorabilia: mugs
Rare, antique 17th century coronation chargers are a great investment, if you can get your hands on them. But if you can’t, then your best bet might be something from Queen Victoria’s coronation, in 1838. Pearlware mugs seem to have been mass produced, with designs by Read & Clementson, and a Swansea purple transfer mug, one of which fetched £620 at auction in 2007.
Inexpensive enamel mugs were produced for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897; and similar beakers were made for the coronations of Edward VII in 1902 and George V in 1911.
Wedgwood developed the mug theme in the 20th century by producing a design for Edward VIII’s coronation in 1937, and quickly adapting it for George VI’s coronation which replaced it. The same design was then recoloured for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.
So what coronation memorabilia should you collect?
There’s a vast range of collectibles, varying in value and sentimentality. If you’re looking to make some capital gains, then the earlier the monarch you can find, the better – it’s usually likely to be rarer. Certainly mugs and china from Victoria’s coronation could be worth decent money, but most items from George V onwards will probably fetch you under £200.
If you’re collecting for sentimental reasons, then the mugs and beakers, and especially the Wedgwood designs, are delightful – and basically anything you like the look of is worth far more in terms of sentimentality than it will be on the open market.
For the upcoming Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla, why not pick up this official chinaware collection?
Coronation and royal collectibles on Antiques.co.uk
Do you have coronation or royal collectibles? Sell them with us.
We have an ever-increasing number of buyers looking at items listed on Antiques.co.uk, so if you’ve got some Coronation or Royal memorabilia at home, you could easily list it and sell it with us! Here’s how to get started.