Memories are made of this … the fine art of souvenir buying (and selling)

The British summer is drawing to a close and most folk’s vacation is becoming a distant memory, brought to mind by that fridge magnet each time they go for the milk. Fridge magnets may not be your thing but odds are that you bought some souvenirs as mementos for yourself, or gifts for friends and family, whilst away.

Souvenir, which in French means ‘memory’, plays an important role as evidence of special moments and experiences in one’s life. They are an important component of the tourist experience and serve as a tangible symbol to commemorate events and our travels.

What makes good souvenirs and gifts? I’d be interested to read your comments on this but a little unscientific research suggested these may be amongst the top ten:

Top 10 Souvenirs:

  • Fridge Magnets
  • Key Rings
  • Stationery, eg, pens, pencils, notebooks
  • Food & Beverages eg, fudge, chocolate, biscuits, rock, packs of tea or coffee
  • Post Cards
  • Bags
  • Soft Toys
  • Clothing, eg, T-shirts and hats/caps
  • Mugs
  • Effigies of people, buildings, etc.

This list suggests that popular souvenirs tend to be small and easy to transport, inexpensive and say something about the place or event visited. They vary from the novel to the ornamental to the practical and may feature images of local landmarks or personalities.

As well as the memory value for the holidaymaker, having objects to enrich the recall of the experience, giving a souvenir as a gift means that you’ll be able to share the experience with your loved ones. Often it’s something that no one else could get since many items are only available – or at least, only affordably and easily available – within the country or region of origin. If someone close to you collects something, you can obtain a special item to add to their collection that they would not otherwise have been able to access, which is always appreciated.

Over time, such souvenir items could also prove to be quite valuable. Witness the rise in value of saucy postcards and old souvenir seaside china, such as W H Goss pieces, made between 1858 and 1939 but at their most popular from the turn of the 20th century to before the First World War. These also illustrate just how long commemorative souvenirs have been around!

Besides the value of souvenirs to the buyer, as an industry it is worth billions, making a significant contribution to the local economy wherever they are sold. Any destination, visitor attraction or event that doesn’t capitalise on this really is missing a trick … remember that!

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