Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's with all the brouhaha over a British mug?

It is one thing to see the mug of a handsome prince plastered on television and all over the cover of newspapers and magazines worldwide, but a moustache mug?

Stephen Church and the mug.
Since the office of the Prince of Wales at Clarence House sounded the trumpets to make it official -- Prince William of Wales and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton are engaged to be married -- it has appeared on the BBC network and regional news stations throughout the United Kingdom. The media attention also generated many offers to purchase the item, including inquiries from the United States.

Why all this brouhaha over a mug?

"(Because) this moustache mug is no ordinary moustache mug, far from it," said Stephen Church, fifth-generation co-owner of Church's China and the mug in question, during an interview from his home in Northampton, England. It was lunchtime here but well into Church's supper hour. 
Being a gentleman, he continued.

"This mug was manufactured by Belleek China in Northern Ireland to commemorate the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra."

Once as common as a broom, moustache mugs are now highly sought-after antiques. This one being a King Edward VII Moustache Mug and a rare royal commemorative makes it even more coveted by collectors -- not to mention an interesting topic for journalists.

"When this piece was made, it was very functional. It enabled Victorian gentlemen with their huge bushy moustaches to partake of their afternoon cup of tea without ending up with soggy, stained whiskers. Now it is quite a novelty," said Church, amused by the attention that his King Edward Moustache Mug has received.

But not moved to the point of selling it.

"This beautiful piece is certainly the oldest royal item that we have in our archives, and we're delighted to show it off as we tell the world about our growing collection of royal wedding gifts," said Church. "(But) it is not for sale."

The official Royal Collection plate (above) and tankard.

What you can buy is the official royal wedding china, designed specifically for the wedding and approved by Prince William and Catherine: a commemorative plate ($51.99), pillbox ($32.49) and tankard ($45.51). The regal pieces bear William and Kate's initials entwined in gold and silver, surmounted by the coronet of Prince William and the wedding date, April 29, 2011. 

Does Church recommend these items as an investment to collectors?

"We never advise anyone to buy something as an investment," Church said. "We tell our customers to buy something for one reason and one reason only -- because they like it."

In that case, how about selling the King Edward VII Moustache Mug?

Stephen Church of The UK Gift Company shows off his favorite royal wedding commemorative.

Church's China was founded in 1858 by Church's great-great-grandfather Thomas Church, and has been retailing upscale royal commemorative gifts ever since. As royal wedding excitement grows, more and more companies will unveil their items to memorialize the big day. Visit Church's store online, The U.K. Gift Company


Members of the public give their views on the choice of Westminster Abbey as the venue for the Royal Wedding.

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