02/23/2012

Even a royal thumbprint can bring top dollar

If you are lucky enough to be a graduate of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland -- say, Class of 2005 -- it might be wise to check through all those old notebooks and boxes of junk from those days of yore.

Kate dressYou never know if might have had a brush, intentional or not, with the Duke or Duchess of Cambridge. And that can mean some serious cash.

When the BBC’s venerable “Antiques Roadshow” turned up in St. Andrews, one of the university’s secretaries brought in a couple of programs from that now-famous charity fashion show when Kate modeled a see-through dress (right) on the catwalk in 2002.

The moment has since become part of the couple’s lore, with a bug-eyed William apparently proclaiming “Kate’s hot!” -- as if he’d set eyes on her for the first time, even though they’d been flatmates.

The moment apparently put William into some kind of forgetful bliss, because he walked out of the hall that night and left his program of the evening’s entertainment on the table.

“I took it before everything was cleared away,” Barbara Lessels, a secretary at the university, told the show’s host, Fiona Bruce.

“What’s more, it had his thumbprint on it!”

Ten years later, Lessels brought it to “Antiques Roadshow” for an appraisal. Bruce called her find “fantastic” before a value of 500 pounds -- $785 Canadian – was placed on it.

Not bad for a little tidying and some quick thinking.

Of course, the star piece of memorabilia from that fashion show was Kate’s sheer creation, which was made by then-fashion student Charlotte Todd for about $45. It sold last year at auction for about $125,000.

It’s one in a long line of merchandise which has somehow been cast as important to the timeline of Kate and William’s romance, and made into valuable property.

Remember, a few months after the royal wedding, Kate’s old car showed up on eBay. The 2001 Volkswagen Golf with 104,000 km drew  a top bid of $74,500, more than 10 times its market value. Still, that wasn’t enough to pry it from the hands of owner Sonny Brazil, who acquired the car in from his father’s dealership in 2009.

BeatriceThen there’s Princess Beatrice’s ugly hat (left) she wore to the royal wedding. The Philip Treacy creation became the most mocked item of the day, but quickly turned into a valuable asset.

It earned $128,000 when it was put up for eBay auction in aid of the princess’s charities.

The moral of the story -- never underestimate the royal touch.

And in this, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, the price of royal memorabilia is expected to rise. Even after 60 years, and the Queen’s fingerprints on many, many items, her handiwork still commands respect. A personally-signed Christmas card -- and she sends out hundreds each year -- can run over $1,000. A thank-you note can top $7,500.

A Valentine’s card from the late Princess Diana to a former valet was expected to fetch more than $12,000 at auction.

The market for Kate and William can only go up. We know what ‘The Kate Effect’ has done for the fashion industry when she wears a new outfit.

A simple signature from them will be money in the bank.

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