Queen Elizabeth's jubilee souvenirs sweep Britain

Her face looms from the shelves on everything from biscuit tins to ashtrays; with celebrations for her diamond jubilee in full swing, Britain's monarch reigns supreme over the souvenir market.

Retailers have gone into royal overdrive for the anniversary, cramming displays with both kitsch junk and big-ticket items inspired by Queen Elizabeth II's sixty-year reign.

Luxury carmaker Bentley announced a special sixty-unit jubilee edition of its Mulsanne model, and breakfast spread Marmite has temporarily renamed itself Ma'amite.

Silk scarves emblazoned with corgis, the queen's favourite dog, fetch over £100 ($156, 125 euros) at one London department store, while souvenir shops on the same street peddle an unofficial range of cheap commemorative china.

Enterprising websites have begun hawking jubilee g-strings and even t-shirts for dogs, while republican smokers can stub out their cigarettes on her majesty's face using a highly unauthorised jubilee ashtray.

Just a year after the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, royal fever is sweeping the British high street once again.

Nuala McGourty, retail director of the Royal Collection, told AFP that collectors had already snapped up 30,000 tea towels, 15,000 tankards and 14,000 pill-boxes from the official memorabilia line.

"The royal wedding had huge appeal, but this is even better," she said. "We sell an enormous amount from our online shop to customers from North America and the Commonwealth countries.

"It appeals to people who want a souvenir that will go up in value, something they can pass on to their grandchildren," she added.

But the elegant range, with its quintessentially British teapot priced at £250 and £395 cake stand, may not be quite the goldmine collectors are hoping for.

"It probably isn't a fantastic investment as this stuff is so mass-produced these days," said James Grinter of Reeman Dansie, an auction house specialising in royal memorabilia.

"The queen has been around for such a long time, she's produced an awful lot of things," he explained.

"And there aren't so many collectors for commemorative memorabilia as there were thirty or forty years ago. The value has rather gone down. Princess Diana is a lot more collectable than the queen," he added.

The Centre for Retail Research predicts that consumers will spend £307 million ($489 million, 384 million euros) this summer on jubilee and Olympic souvenirs.

But in London's Oxford Street shopping district, hawkers of the cheap, unofficial memorabilia -- most of it made abroad -- are downbeat.

"None of it's selling," one stall-owner told AFP glumly from under a festoon of commemorative tea towels.

But at the other end of the market, British makers of high-quality ceramics have, like the Royal Collection, reported booming sales for their jubilee-inspired designs.

Pottery firm Emma Bridgewater said it expected to earn £1.5 million from its commemorative range and, like the Royal Collection, says demand has far outstripped that for its royal wedding memorabilia.

Leigh Willott, the company's design manager, suggested William and Kate had created a surge in popularity for products inspired by the royal family.

"The wedding really engaged people into celebrating these royal events," she said.

Designer Lydia Leith, meanwhile -- who won fame across Britain with her tongue-in-cheek royal wedding sick bags -- is back with jelly moulds that create large, wobbling replicas of the queen's head.

"They've been very popular, though lot of people are quite shocked by it," she said. "They see it and wonder: is it OK to eat the queen?"

Even major retailer Marks and Spencer, a byword for middle-class respectability in Britain, has launched a range of jubilee-themed women's knickers.

"It's selling slowly but surely," a Marks and Spencer sales assistant told AFP.

"It was like this before the royal wedding -- nobody bought that much in the weeks running up to it, then on the day before, everyone went crazy."

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