- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

LONDON (AP) - A William and Catherine monogram mug? A pair of hand-crafted swan paperweights? A dainty wedding bell, perhaps?

With the array of romantic memorabilia flooding the market, royal fans worldwide don’t have to wait till next year to celebrate Prince William’s wedding.

Almost as soon as the prince announced his engagement to long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton, souvenir shops and chinaware producers have been inundated with order requests for special edition mugs, plates and assorted collectibles.

In a generally bleak retail landscape, British businesses have high hopes the royal wedding can bring in some badly needed cash.

“We’ve taken masses of pre-sales orders, and people have actually placed orders on items that they can’t even see pictures of because they’re not available yet,” said Stephen Church, whose family has been selling collectibles in England’s Northampton for over 100 years.

Manufacturers have had special tableware designed months ago _ it only took the official announcement of when (April 29) and where (Westminster Abbey) for the race to cash in to begin in earnest.

It’s a retail fever that has gripped people from all corners of the world. There is strong interest from collectors in the U.S. and other countries with no royals, Church said. As for Britons _ especially those living overseas _ owning royal memorabilia could be a way to connect with their country and display patriotism.

“For the British, it’s a feeling of security,” he said. “It’s part of life’s routine that the royal family is there. Buying commemorative products is part of cherishing them.”

Royal births, coronations and weddings have been marked with souvenir ceramics for centuries, and the commemorative china industry is nearly as steeped in tradition as the royal family itself. So skip novelty items like cell phone covers and mouse pads _ serious collectors will be sticking to mugs and plates, Church said.

“People aren’t looking for something different,” he said. “With a royal event, it’s all about tradition.”

So what’s on offer?

To share royal adulation with the love of your life, consider getting a specially commissioned royal “loving cup” _ a mug with two handles.

Aynsley China, which has been making chinaware to mark royal events since Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, has one of these gems. They also have royal engagement-themed plates and coasters featuring portraits of William and Middleton. The designs have been ready for six months and will hit the shops just before Christmas, sales director John Wallis said.

Royal Doulton, another chinamaker, has a similar floral-edged plate that has a picture of the youthful couple gazing lovingly at each other.

Church predicts particularly strong demand for memorabilia from Halcyon Days, a prominent china company known for the hand-painted enamel boxes it makes to celebrate big royal occasions.

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