LONDON — To mark King George III’s 50th year on the throne, there were souvenir medals, jugs and mugs. For Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, her subjects could collect coins, stamps, handkerchiefs and teapots.
The Center for Retail Research estimated that Brits will spend more than $356 million on jubilee souvenirs and gifts. Retailers hoping to cash in on the celebrations this week are selling items ranging from the classy to the questionable. Some may be treasured and handed down to future generations. But some of what Brits call “tat” may be destined for the back of the closet after the parties end on Sunday.
Want to mark the time with a color-changing queen Swatch watch? Or celebrate the big occasion wearing leggings with repeating images of the queen? Perhaps you’re inviting friends over for a garden party and would like to install a purple jubilee bench flanked by miniature monarch garden gnomes?
It’s all here and for sale today — except for those items that are sold out. The jubilee Barbie was out of stock after three seconds, according to the British retailer John Lewis. And the Royal Collection Shop announced it was suspending online orders of official memorabilia.
With 70 years of service, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest serving British monarch, and first to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. #Barbie observes the landmark occasion with a doll in her likeness, dressed in an ivory gown, blue riband, and a regal crown. https://t.co/nt6KElqjK4 pic.twitter.com/7BkcyCnNE7— Barbie (@Barbie) April 21, 2022
On a recent day at one of the Royal Collection’s brick-and-mortar shops, adjacent to Buckingham Palace, employees were struggling to keep up with the customers pouring in. A staffer explained they were temporarily out of jubilee mugs, tea towels and coins — though there was still plenty of jubilee-branded and generic royal memorabilia to choose from.
Commemorative china as a classic choice
Lily Spicer, a spokeswoman for the trust that manages the official royal gift shops, said commemorative bone china pieces have been among the most popular items.
A range of jubilee teacups, mugs, plates and pillboxes is being produced in Stoke-on-Trent, England, where potteries have been making royal commemorative ware for generations.
“Each item is made by hand in Stoke-on-Trent using traditional methods, so it can take time to keep up with demand,” Spicer said in an email. “In recent weeks, with the jubilee fast approaching, each new batch of china has been selling out quickly.”
Our #PlatinumJubilee blog is out! Get ready to celebrate 70 glorious years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, and a wonderful long Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend in Stoke-on-Trent.— Visit Stoke (@VisitStoke) May 26, 2022
We cordially invite you to join in the Potteries Platinum Jubilee fun…https://t.co/EcUgg7aleG pic.twitter.com/pwDeNpQh22
Some are sold in limited editions, with only 2,022 items produced — reflecting the year.
Spicer added that “tea towels, biscuit tins and special edition Platinum Jubilee English sparkling wine” have also been popular.
Platinum picnic provisions
Jubilee mania has spilled over into the food sector — perhaps not surprising given that street parties, picnics and pub revelry will be a big part of the celebrations.
For $650, Fortnum & Mason, the royal grocer, will pack a picnic hamper for six to eight people that includes Platinum Jubilee English sparkling brut, wedges of blue Stilton and Somerset cheddar, King Peter ham, Scotch eggs and tea cakes.
One Welsh fish-and-chips shop has gotten attention — and some dubious looks — for a TikTok video of its blue-and-red battered jubilee fish and chips.
Among other unusual offerings: coronation chicken potato chips, a nod to the cold chicken salad made to mark the queen’s 1953 coronation.
A royal announcement…— Tyrrells (@Tyrrells) May 18, 2022
To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee we are launching, limited edition, coronation chicken crisps. Combining roast chicken with a subtle kick of curry, these Tyrrellbly Tyrrellbly Tasty crisps are perfect for any Jubilee soirée. Only @waitrose pic.twitter.com/DN2i8hm7oK
For those wanting to rustle up food at home, the big grocery chains have dedicated sections on their websites to help. Others, such as the Kennel Club, Britain’s largest organization dedicated to canine health and welfare, have dog treat recipes at the ready.
And PG Tips, a popular brand of British tea, has tea bags in limited-edition boxes decorated with corgis.
What’s worth buying as an investment?
The jubilee Barbie has been selling for twice its $120 retail price on eBay. But auctioneers say it’s rare for collectors to make much on royal commemorative items.
James Constantinou, founder of Prestige Pawnbrokers, a company that offers cash for collectibles, said much of what is on offer today is mass-produced and unlikely to surge in value. What collectors want are items that are hard to find, he said — like a pair of Queen Victoria’s underwear, which he sold for more than $15,000.
Even if someone bought a limited-edition commemorative plate from the Buckingham Palace gift shop and kept it in the box with the receipt, “it could take 30 to 40 years before you’d see a return on investment,” he said.
Adrian Hume-Sayer, a director of private collections at Christie’s London, said serious collectors are interested in pieces with direct connections to members of the British royal family.
“The more unusual the better,” he said, adding that the “condition, quality, beauty and provenance” will affect the price. Christie’s has sold items such as Marie Antoinette’s armchair for $2.22 million and a locket worn by King George IV’s secret wife for $431,000.
But many of the locals and tourists snapping up jubilee memorabilia aren’t looking for a return on investment. They simply want a memento to mark the occasion.
Dawn Cantrell, 61, a health insurance executive visiting from Louisiana, was among those who purchased a few items at the Buckingham Palace shop: strawberry shortbread, Earl Grey tea, handmade English chocolates and a book about the queen. She was hoping to share these with her 87-year-old mom while watching the jubilee celebrations on television when back in the States.
“This is my first purchase,” she said. “There may be more.”