Collecting Royalty covers 350 years

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Collecting Royalty: Commemorative Material
By Jim Trautman
The British Royal Family seems to be everywhere these days. The movie The King’s Speech depicts George VI and the story of his life-long stutter.
Newspapers and magazines are filled with news of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s upcoming royal wedding. Plans are underway to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II next year which will be marked with a special statutory holiday. The Summer Olympic Games will take place in London in 2012 and the Royal Family will be involved in the celebrations.
Commemorative items connected to the Royal Family have been issued for the past 350 years. It is believed that Elizabeth I was the first monarch to be so honoured. A commemorative Lambeth Delftware plate issued in 1600 bore the inscription: “The rose is red, the leaves are green, God Save Elizabeth Our Queen.”
It was not until the late 1800s that items celebrating various events in the life of the Royal Family began to be issued in large numbers. By the turn of the 20th Century, commemorative items appeared manufactured of ceramics, china, glass, tin, paper, and eventually, after the 1930s, plastic.
Commemorative items were produced for royal weddings, births, coronations, deaths and milestone anniversaries such as Silver or Golden Jubilees of reigning monarchs. The portrayal of the members of the monarchy on items has been recognized as a form of idolization, especially at a time when the monarchy was so removed from its citizens.
Starting in the late 1800s and into the 20th century commemorative items were recognized as a means to impart patriotism to citizens through the issuing of such everyday items as cups, mugs, flags, toys, magazines, books, spoons, plates, soap drainers, tea pots, candle holders, even a bottle opener with the crown on the top.
One English town council wrote in the minutes of a meeting, “give them a free meal, a toy, fireworks display or a packet of tea, together with a mug or beaker commemorating a coronation, a jubilee or a royal wedding and the lower order would be taught respect and gratitude.”
Companies began to recognize that they could order a specific item and have it stamped with the compliments of the company and given to customers as a reward for a purchase. Companies which had competition in the marketplace began to feature portrayals of the Royal Family on their product.
With the advent of the First World War, products featured the Royal Family to increase the war effort and patriotism. With the advent of photography, images of the Royals began to appear in not just newspapers, but entire magazines that focused on almost every aspect of the life of the Royal Family. With commemorative material being issued for so many different events, the barriers between Monarchs and their citizens began to lessen.
Our collection contains a paper item with the image of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and the itinerary for the opening of a new bridge. It describes how they would be traveling in a procession of four horse drawn carriages with a military escort of mounted horsemen. Citizens were encouraged to come out and cheer the King and Queen.
To increase sales, tobacco companies began the practice of including a free item in their packages of cigarettes. In 1935 the Aderth company issued a 50 picture card set of the Royal Family starting with card #1, Queen Victoria.
The set was to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of George V and Queen Mary in 1935. One card per package encouraged the customer to return to purchase more cigarettes. A young Princess Elizabeth appears on one card. In his personal diary King George V noted how astonished he was at the warmth of the people who greeted him during this period. Another company issued a smaller set dedicated to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth with an album available to place the cards in.
Other companies had issued sets as large as 150 cards.
Candy companies were not to be left out. The Topps Candy and Gum Company of the United States issued two valuable royalty cards in the early 1950s. In the 1952 set, Look n See card #104 features the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II. The card is valued at $15.
In 1954, the company issued a set of picture cards called Scoops. Each card featured a major news story. The front of the card was a painted depiction of the event and the back told the story of the event. Card #25 was “King Edward Gives Up the Throne.” It is valued at $25. Each card came with a stick of gum.
Toy companies were included in the public's desire for commemorative items. For Queen Elizabeth I’s, 1977 Silver Jubilee the Mettoy Company under the Corgi brand issued a model of a 1902 State Landau coach.
The toy includes two riders and four horses pulling the famous Landau with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Two footmen stand behind the Queen and Prince Philip. The Queen is waving. As an added touch, behind the coach is a Corgi dog. The set sells in the $100 range.
The famous Britain's Toy Soldier Company has a uniformed figure of the Queen mounted “Trooping the Colours”, as she does on her birthday each year. A single boxed figure sells for $40.
In 1830, a jig saw puzzle was issued to commemorate the Coronation of William IV (1830-1837). Thus began the tradition of companies issuing puzzles for major royal events.
A beautiful jig saw puzzle issued for the 1937 Coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth pictures each in exquisite robes for the event. In 1952, Waddington issued the first round puzzle for the Coronation of Elizabeth II.
Material has also been issued upon the death of a Monarch or royal figure. For six pence, one could purchase the Official Programme of the Funeral Procession of King Edward VII that took place on Friday, May 20, 1910. Single sheets were printed with a photo of Edward VII and the inscription: “In Loving Memory of King Edward VII - The Peacemaker.”
Upon the death of the Duke of Windsor in 1972, a coffee mug was produced by Mercian China of Burton-on-Trent. He appears on the front with a list of his titles and on the back a picture of the Duchess of Windsor.
With the expectation that Edward VIII would be the King for many years, his Coronation material was manufactured in large numbers, so there is not a shortage of items. His sudden abdication didn't leave much time to produce similar items for the Coronation of his brother George VI. One beautiful piece in our collection connected to the Coronation of George VI is a large pennant with a red background and the painted image of the King and Queen.
Elizabeth was on a five-month tour of the Commonwealth when on Feb. 6, 1952, when she was informed that her father had died in his sleep and she was the now the Queen. George VI and Queen Elizabeth had been popular monarchs especially when they resided in London during World War II to keep up the morale of the nation.
The first visit to Canada by a ruling monarch, was made by George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939 and they were met with large crowds on the journey even meeting the Dionne Quints. Their journey began in Newfoundland/Labrador not yet part of Canada and continued across the country. Plates were issued, cups and other items.
One large piece of that tour remains outside of Toronto. The railway car the King and Queen toured the country in is owned by the Mother Parker Coffee Company and sits on a railway siding next to their plant. The interior is just as it was on their tour in 1939.
Children carried pencil cases with the image of the King and Queen and a wooden ruler issued by the A&P Coffee Company. On one side was a crown for the Coronation in 1937 and on the flip side, a chronological list of every Monarch, undoubtedly a big help during history tests.
With the long reign of Elizabeth II, hundreds, if not thousands, of different items have been issued over the years. The Province of Ontario's department of travel and publicity issued aluminum drink coasters to commemorate the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Due to mass production, they are only worth about $2 each.
The Canadian Government announced on February 4, that a special commemorative medal will be struck to mark Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne.
Of course, the most numerous collectible connected to the monarch is the paper money and metal coins that we have employed for over 100 years.
Commemorative items related to the various monarchs is a wide open collectible area and most of the items are very inexpensive because of the quantities produced.
There are some items made in limited editions, which are very costly. An Aynsley 1953 Coronation plate, Queen Elizabeth in the centre, with a border of flags and flowers, sells for $400.
Happy collecting and watch for items for the upcoming special events just around the corner. It has been announced that the newly-married Prince William and Kate will be visiting Canada this summer around Canada Day, so there will be lots of Canadian items out there for collectors.
1 - A&P Coffee's souvenir ruler marked the Coronation of George VI in May 1937. On back, a list of all kings and queens of England.
2 - 1941 sheet music for The King Is Still In London, introduced in America by Canada's Happy Gang and sung by Bert Pearl. Original price, 40 cents. Today, $45.
3 - Coronation booklet for Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, January 22, 1901.
Front of booklet also contains - he was born on November 9, 1841 and she on
December 19, 1844.
4 - Children’s pencil case to commemorate the visit to Canada in 1939 of George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
5 - Plate to commemorate the visit of George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit to the Dominion of Canada in 1939. Plate was made in green as well.
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