From 1953 beer to royal syrup, British collector charts coronation brands
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By JEEVAN RAVINDRAN
LONDON (Reuters) -Robert Opie has a unique way of documenting coronations: the 76-year-old has been gathering consumer products with a royal theme since the late Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1953, when his school held a scrapbook competition.
The six-year-old Opie's compilation of bread wrappers, milk bottle tops and pictures from magazines won first prize.
Seventy years on he runs London's 'Museum of Brands', with some 12,000 objects, many of them devoted to Britain's royals.
As the country gears up for the coronation of King Charles on May 6, Opie has updated his collection with new items, including labels of Cadbury chocolate and Lyle's Golden Syrup.
"They'll all fade away into some bin unless I save something," he said. "And in another 10 years we'll look back and say 'Woah! That was fun.'"
Opie's museum in Notting Hill charts consumer culture and houses objects from past coronations, including a commemorative can of beer from the 1937 crowning of King George VI - with the beer still inside. Canned beer was a novelty having been introduced in Britain in 1935.
"People get a tremendous thrill out of seeing the story that is us. And yet, without it, you don't understand when things happened," Opie said, adding that royal events formed the "skeleton of history."
The oldest object in his collection is a Delftware plate from the reign of King William III who was on the throne from 1689 to 1702.
The museum, which was founded in 1982, represents only a small sample of Opie's collection which he began in the 1960s and extended to hundreds of thousands of objects, he said.
"I've always had a fascination with things that are in many ways trivial, but when they're all joined together, there's a very powerful and exciting story that comes out."
(Reporting by Jeevan Ravindran; additional reporting by Will Russell; Editing by William Schomberg and Alexander Smith)