Everything Royal

Collecting Royal Commemoratives

by Alicia Carroll


British royal commemoratives have not only been bought by the English out of love and loyalty for centuries but by the world over. Royal commemoratives started as far back as the 15th century with a medal being produced for the Coronation of King Edward VI but not until the 1800's and Queen Victoria did collecting become the obsession it is today.

Previously mugs had been issued in the 1700's for the Coronation of King George II who was the first to have his likeness reproduced on china or ceramic followed by the much hated King George IV who had a lavish Coronation and ordered many pieces made.

In 1831 King William IV, Queen Victoria's uncle had numerous items produced including the first royal bust and jigsaw puzzles to be offered for sale to the public.

Nothing previously prepared manufactures or the royal court for the adulation Queen Victoria would receive. Companies commissioned by the court were kept busy day and night getting ready for her Coronation. Until Princess Diana became the most photographed and famous person in history, it was a Queen Victoria commemorative piece that was most sought after and treasured, especially if it was a signed or numbered item. A signed letter or photograph of Queen Victoria can sell for upwards of $10,000.00.

Queen Victoria's long reign saw a major increase in the population and a new breed of manufacturing opened up with new materials and techniques being used for mass marketing. After Victoria's reign the progress was not to be restrained. Until the Coronation of King Edward VII, the production of royal commemoratives was controlled by the Monarchy or the Lord Chamberlain's office. No longer true, everyone rushed to issue a new item. The new King's likeness was on everything from match boxes to teapots missing nothing in between. Queen Victoria's likeness even appeared on canned peaches and on peach crates. Jewelry and coins were fashioned after them and thus began a whole new world for the collector.

In 1953 with the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the entire world was enjoying the post war years and prosperity. The motion picture industry was at its zenith taking the movie goer to far away places full of magical palaces filled with beautiful Princes and Princesses. With the invention of television, a world many people had only read about in history books was now in their living room. The Coronation of Elizabeth II was the icing on the cake. Suddenly a whole new world was fascinated with a beautiful, young Queen Elizabeth II. Having survived the horrors of WWII, the world was more than ready ready for kings, queens and castles.

I have always been fascinated with the pomp, pageantry and the fairy tale happenings in far away places. Thus, my fascination with the royal family and my obsession with collecting royal commemoratives and memorabilia began as a small child watching Princess Elizabeth being crowned Queen in 1953.

Collecting royal commemoratives has come full circle. The new collector can find anything from a note pad to a bottle of unopened beer for any member of the Royal Family. My own personal collection of royal commemoratives had grown to such large proportions, I had three and four of some items. At times, more. Often, when purchasing at auction, you must buy the entire lot, meaning groups of items. Books are almost always sold in lots. Many times I have purchased upwards of 1000 books to get one or two rare ones I wanted for my collection.

So, getting the idea from my friend and loyal Monarchist, Kelley Thornton, I decided I would print a catalog to offer all the items I had in duplicate. I foolishly advertised my catalog in Majesty Magazine which I had yet to write or print. The response was overwhelming. I had no choice but to print my first catalog with a "mere" double spaced 16 pages.

I had a great deal to learn about purchasing merchandise, advertising, printing, packaging, shipping and not forgetting permits and licensing.. With only a 16 page catalog, I sold out in my first month. I had nothing left to offer. People were still writing for the catalog. It was time to start shopping.

Living in a city the size of Los Angeles with a large English population was a great help. We have free antique trade papers where I advertised to purchase any item relating to the English Royal Family. There are thousands of antique stores, old book shops, flea markets and garage sales galore to haunt.

Kelley (Thornton) and myself scoured Los Angeles antique shops, thrift shops, garage sale and flea markets buying everything and anything relating to the British royal family. We also bought all related magazines on the market with classifieds offering merchandise. After ordering everyone's "so called" catalog which often was a 4-6 page, hand written list, I decided to buy out the competition. My inventory was growing but far to slow to keep up with the demand.

With the wedding of HRH Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, the entire world suddenly became aware of the royal family. I was overwhelmed with orders for anything pertaining to Charles and Diana.

My next step was to draft my parents Fran and Elsie Mendenhall in Ohio whose bumper sticker should read, I brake for garage sales . We started our quest and the results were fantastic. The East coast has a large British population. There are wonderful sources for items. Thanks to my Mom and Dad getting things picked up, wrapped and shipped, my second catalog jumped to twice the size of the first but typing the pages on an old typewriter seemed to take forever. I wasn't yet bold enough to tackle a computer.

The second issue received far greater response than the first. I soon realized the cost of printing and shipping was such I would have to charge a small fee to cover the cost of printing the catalog and postage. I was now in business. Everything Royal was born. I still needed far more inventory to keep up with the demands.

Deciding it was time for a major change, I spent three months shopping in England buying for the next catalog. The English have a sort of swap meet called a car boot sale where everyone backs their car into an open field, open their trunks and the sale is on. My yearly buying trip to England keeps the catalog ever changing and interesting.

A visit to England is a must for any true royal collector or royal watcher. If you are not a royal collector it will be a step back in time and history. While in England , I made many friends who are constantly on the lookout for items for Everything Royal. Shipments arrive weekly keeping my catalog full and updated. The English are a warm and wonderful people who open their doors and hearts more readily than anywhere in the world.

More than two decades later, my current catalog is 255 pages.

The warehouse is overflowing. My own personal collection of handwritten letters, signed cards, photographs, invitations, announcements, wedding and funeral programs, various items having once belonged to a member of the royal family or a gift given has grown to thousands of items.

Everything Royal continues to flourish although there is a big difference with the loss of Princess Diana, the Queen Mum and Princess Margaret. Diana brought the royal family front and center. Before Diana, everyone knew the Queen of England although few could tell you the name of her husband.

Nearly nine years after her death, Diana is as famous if not more so than before her death. A day doesn't pass with out her name being mentioned in print or by the media. With the loss of Diana, the glamour is gone.

To learn more about royal commemoratives, I suggest British Royal Commemoratives by Geoffrey Warren .

Alicia Carroll


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