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Buying a Piece of the Jubilee

By Mei Trow and Carol Trow

Jubilee celebrations aren’t such an old, established tradition. And a Diamond Jubilee like the 2012 party for Queen Elizabeth — and all of the merchandise available for purchase — is very rare.

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To get to a Jubilee worth celebrating — a silver one (25 years) — is quite an achievement and only four monarchs in the last 200 years have managed it: George III, Victoria, George V and the present queen.

George III had pretty bad luck with Jubilee dates: He was either embroiled in the American War of Independence or a bit crazy when his Jubilees came round.

Victoria loved every minute of her jubilee celebrations, and you can still find many items of memorabilia from these celebrations on the cheap in antique shops to this day.

George V had just the one Jubilee — his silver — and he was already ill. Even so, medals were struck, stamps were issued, and plates and mugs were made to mark it.

As Queen Elizabeth II prepares for her own Diamond Jubilee, the amount of queen-themed commemorative merchandise available to mark the occasion is absolutely mind-blowing.

The emphasis for this jubilee is very much on street parties, picnics, and other community projects. Supermarkets are packed with imaginative (and at times scary) themed food and decorations — from sandwiches wrapped in Union Jack packaging and patriotic pots of Marmite to some rather splendid centerpiece cakes and mini cupcakes with red white and blue sprinkles.

Whether even a Jubilee party needs Coronation Chicken flavour potato chips or a British breakfast sandwich including Buck’s Fizz mayonnaise is a difficult question to answer, but opinion gleaned from sales figures appears to be, in general, no!

Better to stay traditional in some ways and opt for a cup of Pimm’s and strawberries and cream.

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And what better to serve such a feast on than the Union Jack? The mix the millions of flags, cups – paper and china –party poppers, balloons, and napkins is a sight to see. But the flag doesn’t stop there.

This Jubilee has truly caught the imagination of the public and with this also being an Olympic year, Britain, and particularly London, is hanging out its bunting with pride. Sometime after the event, the length of bunting used to celebrate the Jubilee will no doubt be calculated by some dedicated soul. A trip down any British High Street right now could furnish anyone with a reasonable guess of hundreds of thousands of miles of the stuff.

Even shops which don’t generally trade in souvenir items are currently stocking Union Jack merchandise in the shape of pillows, bed linen, comforters, and every possible size of teddy bear. Not since the swinging Sixties has Britain seen such a rash of Union Jack decked jeans, tee shirts, skirts, shoes and socks. Even the tiniest baby can be kitted out from head to toe in red, white and blue.

And don’t forget the collectibles. There’s very high end china and crystal on offer, both in shops and online. But not everyone has the few thousand pounds (and much more) to splash out on replica royal jewelry, so it is worth taking a moment to consider what pieces of Diamond Jubilee commemorative merchandise will stand the test of time.

Top of the list has to be paper items. Although their value will never be huge, they will increase many times from their original price, because in time they will become relatively rare. After that, in no particular order, comes coins, stamps, mugs, plates and tee shirts. But perhaps the best way of celebrating the Diamond Jubilee is to buy something you like, and raise a glass — or sandwich if you prefer — to wish Her Majesty a happy day.

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