As the collecting world adjusts to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Paul Fraser considers the impact on that most intimate of items – the royal autograph
Queen Elizabeth II, along with Elizabeth I and Victoria, will be known as one of the great queens of English history with a reign celebrated for centuries.
So it was with no great surprise that the past two months have seen a dramatic rise in demand for the late Queen’s signature. Just as people queued to pay their last respects, with the same wish to be part of history, there is a clamour to own her autograph.
Usually growth in royal signatures is steady and gradual. But there are occasions where the market takes a sudden, significant leap up. We are witnessing one at the moment. When a monarch dies and another ascends the throne, it’s a truly historic event.
Over the past month, the value of a Christmas card hand-signed by the Queen and Prince Philip has grown from £3,500 to £5,000. That’s an increase of 48 per cent. These cards were already considered rare, due to the fact that most royal signatures dating from 1959 were signed using an autopen machine. The use of the autopen is a crucial factor in the royal autograph.
God save the King
There are two more members of the Windsor family whose signatures are set for another leap. King Charles III and Prince William represent the future of the monarchy – and the value of their signatures will rise accordingly.
The next major event in British history will be Charles’ coronation at Westminster Abbey on May 6. The demand for his autograph has already risen sharply in the past month. And I suggest it will only get stronger in the run up to, and after, his coronation.
Rarity is, of course, a factor.
Because the simple fact is that Charles has inherited the throne at the age of 73. His reign will naturally be far shorter than that of his mother. And so the number of signatures he’ll produce as king will be far smaller.
He has already started using his new official signature: “Charles R” (with the ‘R’ meaning Rex, Latin for ‘King’). Authentic, hand-signed examples of the ‘Charles R’ signature will undoubtedly be highly valuable in the future. But it remains to be seen how many make their way onto the market.
Charles and Diana Autographs
Unlike the Queen, who didn’t have the use of an autopen until six years into her reign, Charles has already been using one for decades. All but his closest correspondence is signed by machine. So I’d expect the vast majority of ‘Charles R’ signatures to be the same.
This likely scarcity of genuine King Charles items will see collectors turn to earlier examples.
Christmas cards signed by Charles and Princess Diana have long been popular with collectors. In 2021, these cards sold for £3,500, with most of their perceived value in Diana’s autograph. But now these same cards are valued at £4,500 – an increase of 28 per cent. And that’s squarely down to the growing value of Charles’ autograph.
Also in the ascendancy will be cards signed by Charles and Camilla. As recently as 2019, a Christmas card hand-signed by the couple could be purchased for around £3,000. But Camilla is now the Queen Consort, and the value of her autograph is rising accordingly.
Today, I’d suggest those same Christmas cards would be valued at approximately £1,500, rising to more than £2,000 after the coronation.
Prince William Autograph
Prince William’s autograph is perhaps the rarest royal signature you can own.
Very few examples of William’s signature are even available to view online – let alone purchase. Simply put: they are almost impossible to obtain. In my entire career, I’ve only ever handled two examples. The first was a first-day postal cover, signed very much against protocol at a charity event in 2003.
And the second is a playing card initialled by the Prince in 2005, during a magic trick at another charity event. Having inherited his father’s position as the new Prince of Wales, William now officially signs with a “P” at the end of his name. But handwriting experts suggest that William’s almost unreadable signature reveals him as a deeply private figure. And certainly not a man who signs his name readily on anything.
Even images of recent Christmas cards from the couple showed they had been signed by Kate alone (as “Catherine”).
When you combine this with the royal ban on autographs, it all spells one thing for collectors… King William could become the rarest autograph of any British monarch in modern history.
The rare playing card comes with a letter from Ian Sav, the magician at the glitzy charity do at Banqueting Hall. He writes:
“On 1st October 2005 I was invited to perform at a black and white themed party at Banqueting House, London. Lots of notables in attendance including George Martin (Beatles producer) and other celebrities. On the top table sat Prince William and Lady Melissa Percy.
I offered the prince to choose a card. The two of Spades was chosen… I then asked the prince to sign the card which he happily obliged. I then turned to Lady Melissa Percy who also signed it.
During the classic magic effect lots of various card manipulations took place until the crescendo where the card vanished from the deck.
I looked the Prince in the eye and explained it had appeared folded in quarters under his watch! Sure enough it was! In total shock the astounded Prince repeatedly pronounced ‘Extraordinary.’”
Paul Fraser is the founder of Paul Fraser Collectibles. For more details on current stock including the royal autographs in this article go to www.paulfrasercollectibles.com