Image: Royal wedding memorabilia
Tim Hales  /  AP
Mugs commemorating the forthcoming marriage of Britain's Prince William to Kate Middleton, are stacked at the Prince William Pottery Company in Liverpool, England.
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updated 11/30/2010 11:26:26 AM ET 2010-11-30T16:26:26

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.

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"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.

Swan paperweights
For memorabilia with a twist, Royal Crown Derby has a set of white and gold swan paperweights, called William and Catherine, with necks curved to represent a heart. Cygnet paperweights can come soon, too — the company is already lining up designs for the next range, in anticipation of royal babies.

"It won't be long before we start (product) modeling for children," sales director Simon Willis said.

Suitably for such a fairytale wedding, the company is also making a royal Welsh dragon — the mythical symbol of Wales, where William is based. The designers have been creative with the product line: there are also W&C monogram heart-shaped trays, wedding bells, a set of dwarfs wearing commemorative hats, and a paperweight featuring a hand-painted peacock and roses that will cost more than 3,000 pounds ($4,665) each.

Royal fans on a commoner's budget need not despair. Easy access to digital technology means that almost anyone can print a picture of William on a mug, and many cheaply made T-shirts, tea towels and thimbles are up for grabs on the auction site eBay.com.

Just don't count on them becoming cash in the attic a decade or two on: Hundreds of souvenir items like biscuit tins and stamps marking Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 1981 nuptials swamp the site, with few inviting much bidding interest.

The list of businesses taking advantage of the royal wedding craze goes on.

The supermarket chain Tesco is targeting women who want to copy Middleton's style on the cheap with a 16-pound ($25) version of her dark blue silk engagement dress, while QVC, an online and television shopping company, said sales of its 34-pound ($53) "diamonique" knockoff of Middleton's sapphire and diamond engagement ring rocketed 800 percent the day after the engagement.

All that merchandise can add up to as much as 18 million pounds ($28 million) of retail sales, said Neil Saunders, consulting director of retail researchers Verdict. And that's just the engagement — the wedding itself can bring in more than 26 million pounds ($40 million), Saunders said, on top of the hundreds of millions that tourists already spend every year on visiting palaces and buying monarchy-related souvenirs.

For Ron Smith, who runs an online business selling royal commemorative items, the meaning of collecting royal products has changed since the Victorian times when subjects collected those items to show their allegiance to the British crown. Smith said he has taken many inquiries about the upcoming royal wedding from non-Commonwealth locales such as Alaska and Japan, as well as from royalists in Canada.

"People these days don't buy it because they are loyal to the crown," he said, adding that many of his clients are middle-aged or older and simply started collecting things once they retired and found little else to do.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: A royal couple's long courtship

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  1. William and Kate

    On April 29, 2011, Prince William and Kate Middleton were married, eight years after they first met at university. The prince popped the question five months earlier to his longtime girlfriend during a vacation to Kenya. Take a look at their top moments.

    Official wedding photo The online version of the royal wedding's official program includes a never-before-seen portrait of the couple, shot by Mario Testino. Testino also shot their official engagement pics. (Mario Testino / Art Partner) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A pre-wedding outing

    Kate Middleton, or the Duchess of Cambridge as she is known after the wedding, waves as she walks with Prince William in Darwen, England, on April 11, less than three weeks until the royal wedding. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Royal couple mania!

    Excited fans line up to see Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton arrive at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy in Darwen, England, on April 11. The prince was in the town to officially open the school. (Lindsey Parnaby / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Weather or not

    Heavy rain didn't prevent Kate Middleton and Prince William from thrilling the crowd that gathered to see them as they arrive at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy in northern England on April 11. (Phil Noble / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A perfect flip

    Prince William looks on as Kate Middleton tosses a pancake during a visit to City Hall on March 8, 2011, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Indigo / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wedding blooms

    Britain's Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, speak to wedding florist Rachel Gibson during a visit to the Greenmount Agriculture & Food College, in Antrim, Northern Ireland, on March 8, 2011. (Paul Faith / Pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Remembering Christchurch

    Prince William looks on as his fiancée Kate Middleton signs the book of condolence in memory of those who lost their lives in the Christchurch earthquake at the New Zealand High Commission in London. (David Parker / WPA Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Romantic homecoming

    Prince William and Kate Middleton returned to the university where they met and fell in love on Feb. 25 with an official visit to St. Andrews on the east coast of Scotland. (Danny Lawson / WPA Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pouring some bubbly

    Prince William and his blushing bride-to-be Kate Middleton performed a bit of royal duty, making a rare public appearance in Anglesey, Wales to christen Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station’s brand new lifeboat, the "Hereford Endeavour" on Feb. 24, 2011. (Phil Noble / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Official engagement portraits

    The couple pose in their official engagement portraits, taken by photographer Mario Testino in the Cornwall Room at St James's Palace in London on Nov. 25, 2010. (Mario Testino / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Engaged at last

    William and Kate pose for the media at St. James's Palace in London on Nov. 16, after they announced their engagement. The couple are to wed April 29, 2011. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Diana's ring

    This close-up shows that the engagement ring Prince William gave Kate Middleton was the one that had belonged to his mother, Princess Diana. The ring is an oval sapphire surrounded by diamonds. (Paul Hackett / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Royal couple

    Months of speculation about William and Kate's engagement grew more intense when the couple attended Harry Meade and Rosie Bradford's wedding at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul on Oct. 23, 2010, in Northleach near Cheltenham, England. (Indigo via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Chic chapeau

    In an eye-catching hat, Kate Middleton attends the wedding of Nicholas van Cutsem and Alice at The Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks on Aug. 14, 2009, in London. Middleton had been named to Vanity Fair's international best-dressed list in July 2008. (Indigo via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Wedding guests

    Prince William and Kate Middleton attend the wedding of friend Chiara Hunt in Salzburg, Austria, on Sept. 6, 2008. Two years and two months later, it was announced that the prince and his longtime girlfriend had finally become engaged. (Ikon Pictures via Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A jolly good time

    Prince Harry, Prince William's girlfriend Kate Middleton, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall laugh together as they watch the Order of the Garter procession at Windsor Castle on June 16, 2008. (Tim Graham / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Together again

    Prince William and Kate Middleton at a Royal Air Force graduation ceremony held at RAF Cranwell, England on April 11, 2008. Middleton's accompanying the prince as he was awarded his RAF wings was a clear indication that the couple had reconciled after a widely reported split a year earlier. (Michael Dunlea / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A day at the races

    Kate Middleton attends a horse race at the Cheltenham Festival in Gloucestershire, western England, in this March 16, 2007, photograph. (Eddie Keogh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. On the slopes

    Prince William and Kate Middleton were spotted skiing in Klosters, Switzerland, on March 19, 2008, one of a number of public appearances together that showed that they had reconciled after a reported April 2007 breakup. (Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. They're off!

    Prince William and Kate Middleton on the first day of the Cheltenham Race Festival in Gloucestershire, on March 13, 2007. One month later, the media reported that Middleton and the prince had broken up. (Stephen Lock / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Separate seats

    Prince Harry (front left) and Prince William (on Harry's left) are clearly enjoying a performance at the Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium in London on July 1, 2007. So is Kate Middleton (upper right corner). At the time, rumor had it that William and Kate had reconciled after their split in April 2007, but they sat separately, insisting that they were "just good friends." (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Sports fans

    Prince William and Kate Middleton attend a rugby match in London in this Feb. 10, 2007, photo. (Richard Heathcote / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Paparazzi prey

    Photographers snap pictures of Kate Middleton as she leaves her Chelsea home on Jan. 9, 2007, her 25th birthday. The growing media attention that she attracted at this time prompted warnings to the press from Prince Charles, Prince William and Middleton's lawyers. As a result, two newspaper groups decided to cease publishing paparazzi photos of Middleton. (Solo via ZUMA Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Lady in red

    Kate Middleton arrives at the Sovereign's Parade at The Royal Military Academy in Camberley, west of London, on Dec. 15, 2006. (Ben Gurr / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Guest of honor

    Kate Middleton is seen at the wedding of Laura Parker Bowles and Harry Lopes at St Cyriac's Church, Lacock on May 6, 2006, in Wiltshire, England. (Tim Graham / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Model behavior

    Kate Middleton models on the catwalk at a student fashion show attended by Prince William on March 26, 2002, in St. Andrews, Scotland. The prince reportedly paid 200 pounds to sit in the first row and watch Middleton model a sheer dress over a black bandeau and bikini bottoms. (M Neilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Heads on a platter

    In November 2006, British retailer Woolworths showed a china plate representing Prince William and Kate Middleton as a commemorative gift for their wedding. Four years later the prediction finally came true when the royal family announced that the couple were engaged. (Woolworths via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: Royal wedding could cost $40 million

  1. Transcript of: Royal wedding could cost $40 million

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: But let us begin with those royal wedding plans. NBC 's Stephanie Gosk is live at Buckingham Palace . Stephanie , good morning to you.

    STEPHANIE GOSK reporting: Good morning, Meredith . Well, any moment now we're expecting an announcement on the date and location of the wedding. And the gears are already in motion for every other detail of the wedding; what the young couple has already secured is adoration. It was perhaps inevitable, the dashing prince and his beautiful bride to be, the modern face of Europe 's oldest monarchy charmed this country and the world with their announcement.

    Prince WILLIAM: We're both very, very happy and I'm very glad that I have done it.

    GOSK: With the promise of a wedding has come a wave of popularity. A new poll says that a majority of Britons are so enamored with William that they believe the 28-year-old will be a better king than his father. Many think Charles , when the time comes, should give up the crown to his son. But a break with royal tradition is unlikely.

    Mr. ROBERT JOBSON (Royal Editor, News of the World): The reality is if Prince Charles does step aside, it would require an act of renunciation. It's quite complicated. The fact is he won't want to do that.

    GOSK: The fact is that moment could be decades off, and right now, there's a wedding to plan. It's expected to be held at the nearly 1,000-year-old Westminster Abbey . The last marriage ceremony there was over 30 years ago, the queen's daughter, Anne . This wedding is set to be a much more grand affair. The price tag looms at a daunting $40 million, with most of the details yet to be settled, like the guest list. Numbers are uncertain, but

    here are some of the glitterati expected: the king and queen of Sweden , the entire Spanish royal family , Paul McCartney , Elton John , Phil Collins . There is some pressure to be mindful of economic times, which the palace appreciates.

    Ms. PETA HUNT (You and Your Wedding Magazine): I think any couple's aware of the cost, but I mean, they've already saved a fortune by recycling the ring, so that's fantastic.

    GOSK: To be fair, coming up with the jewels was never going to be a problem; there are quite a few already in the family. What will definitely not be recycled is the dress. Kate 's grandmother, the daughter of a coal miner, bought this simple number in the '50s for $1,000. This royal bride to be will be spending more like 200,000 on a custom design. British fashion houses are already queuing up for the job, and it will likely be a drastic departure from Diana 's, very '80s, very meringue.

    Unidentified Man: The look at the time was full blown, and that was the mood of the time. We're in a different mood now.

    GOSK: William will have little input on the dress, of course, but he is said to be personally involved in almost every other detail. And on top of that, the prince has an actual job to do. The helicopter rescue pilot was called off on an emergency less than 48 hours after the announcement. A mountain climber was trapped on the highest peak in Wales , and Flight Lieutenant Wales , as Prince William is known, was called in with a four-man helicopter crew for the rescue. When the climber got to safety, Meredith , he said if it weren't for Prince William , he would no longer be alive.

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