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Move over Barbie! Kate doll surfs wave of royal wedding memorabilia

By Linnie Rawlinson, CNN
  • Franklin Mint announces release of Kate Middleton Doll, priced at $195
  • Latest in tidal wave of royal wedding-related collectibles
  • British designers of everything from cushions to china hope it will boost their profile
  • Internet has made occasion-based memorabilia more globally available

London, England (CNN) -- She's got the glossy, chestnut hair, the blue silk dress, the jewels -- and she could be yours, for a princely $195.

The pint-sized Kate Middleton Doll, by the Franklin Mint, is no cheap date. But she's the latest in royal wedding memorabilia.

One of a two-doll Kate set (the bridal version will be released after Britain's Royal Wedding takes place), the 16-inch doll's release is announced this week, in anticipation of the royal couple's big day.

The global excitement around the British royal wedding, combined with the opportunities offered for internet businesses -- there was no eBay when Charles and Diana married in 1981 -- means this wedding could break all previous official and unofficial merchandise sales. And companies including the Franklin Mint are hoping to cash in.

Gwynne Gorr, a longtime collector and chief marketing officer for the Franklin Mint says, "The memorabilia will be much more available in the world market just because you can buy things on the internet ... It will have a positive impact on the merchandising of this event."

Royal wedding memorabilia
Gallery: Best British wedding memorabilia

Some, like the Franklin Mint, see it as a golden opportunity to widen their reach and bring new -- potentially younger -- collectors on board.

"Our Princess Diana collection is probably the largest audience we've ever had," says Gorr. "The doll collectors for that are embracing Kate Middleton with the same zeal they had for her. But Kate Middleton is a breath of fresh air."

Others, such as designer Jan Constantine, are hoping the wedding will boost the profile of up-and-coming British talent.

Constantine, whose hand-embroidered textiles are inspired by the Union Jack and other bastions of Britishness, has designed a cushion celebrating the wedding.

"It's so exciting it's happening in our country," she said. "To be a part of it is so amazing."

"It's an opportunity for British designers," she continued. "The British can home in on the whole wedding and the paraphernalia associated with it."

The memorabilia will be much more available in the world market just because you can buy things on the internet.
--Gwynne Gorre, chief marketing officer, Franklin Mint

While Buckingham Palace accepts that it cannot control all merchandise associated with the wedding, the Queen and Co. have shown a strong preference for classic souvenirs of the occasion, such as porcelain pillboxes and commemorative cups.

In a memorandum to staff in December, the Lord Chamberlain, Earl Peel said, "We want items that are permanent and significant."

Initially, the Palace even shied away from that staple British souvenir, the trusty tea towel. They relented in January this year, though the official towel will feature William and Kate's initials, rather than their faces.

Others have no such concerns. Irreverent royal items this time around include KK Outlet's plates emblazoned with "Thanks for the free day off," Butter London's "No More Waity, Katie" nail polish and even Crown Jewels condoms -- promising a "better class of lovemaking."

It's an opportunity for British designers.
--Jan Constantine, designer

British designer Lydia Leith, 24, whose royal wedding-branded sick bags ("Keep this handy on April 29th") have shocked some and amused others, said that the times when unofficial merchandise was confined to cheap knock offs is long gone -- thanks to the internet.

"It's good fun and people have embraced it well," she said. "It's a bit funnier than a plate or a mug, which we've all seen before."

Leith, who has a Charles and Diana pencil case and drinks hot chocolate from a George V coronation mug, said she was excited about the wedding, but that the media hype was "a bit much."

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Back at the Franklin Mint, Gorr has no such qualms.

"I would say that there's been more excitement about this wedding based on all the press coverage, all the feedback from collectors, all the other people making products," she said. "There's been nothing this big since Princess Diana got married.

"You can't help but have an interest in how this magnificent day works out."

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