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Off to the Races with Kentucky Derby Collectibles

by Tom Carrier (04/28/09).

2009-poster

Official 2009 poster

It is billed as the most exciting two minutes in sports. And it is for 3-year-olds only. We’re talking about the ultimate horse race known as the Kentucky Derby.

The race may just be two minutes, but the festival in Louisville, Ky., begins two weeks in advance. Over the past 50 years, it’s grown into the biggest event in Kentucky with parties, dinners, honors, discussions, events, warm-up horse races, golf, balloon races, fireworks, paddle boats, cruising, mint juleps and, of course, souvenirs. Collecting Derby memorabilia is the second largest pastime in Louisville, and it continues well after the hooves of the winner have fallen silent.

Let’s review just a few of the official ones.

The horse
The ultimate souvenir of any Kentucky Derby is the winner itself, a 3-year-old colt, gelding or filly. Exact figures of what it takes to breed a Kentucky Derby winner varies, but the value increases to the millions after the awarding of the blanket of 554 roses to the winner. This is one collectible that continues to appreciate once it is retired to pasture.

Photo signed by trainer of 1994 winner, Go for Gin

Photo signed by trainer of 1994 winner, Go for Gin

Churchill Downs 1947 spring meeting book

Churchill Downs 1947 spring meeting book

(If you would like more information about a pictured item, click on the image.)

The winning ticket
Ah, but the second biggest collectible is at the pay window. Taking home the winnings from the Kentucky Derby is the ultimate collectible, and it comes with free bragging rights. What a deal. Interesting, but I’ve never seen losing tickets auctioned online anywhere.

The mint-julep glass
All right, these are great collectibles for the rest of us. The mint julep is the favorite drink of the Kentucky Derby, so naturally there is a special glass made both for enjoying the drink and for collecting. Official Kentucky Derby mint julep glasses became instant collectibles when they were introduced in 1938.

1950 mint-julep glass

1950 mint-julep glass

1950-mint-julep-glass-2

As with any collectible, there are variations each year. According to Horse-Races.Net, there were aluminum and Bakelite glasses during World War II. The 1950 and 1951 glasses are the rarest, but 1974 had the most variations from two different companies due to a printing error. Read Audra Blevins blog about the mint-julep glass and how to make what goes inside one.

1941 Bakelite derby glass

1941 Bakelite Derby glass

World War II-era Bakelite glass

World War II-era Bakelite glass

The official silk scarf
Silk scarves are a relatively new collectible for the Kentucky Derby. Chuck Starr of Collectors Gallery says the first officially sanctioned scarf was introduced by Churchill Downs about 1995. Only about 200 are made every year, which makes them very rare, indeed. The only place to find the officially sanctioned Kentucky Derby 2008 silk scarf is through the exclusive distributor sanctioned by Churchill Downs, Horse Art Gallery, at a cost of $365 each. Look for the twin-spires graphic on each corner of the scarf to know it is authentic.

The official Kentucky Derby Festival pin
Each year the Kentucky Derby Festival issues a decorative commemorative pin. Beginning in 1973 with a plastic Pegasus pin, there are now festival, corporate, chairman and balloon pins, too. There are so many pins that it is hard to get “pinned” down on just how many styles there are. Each pin is available individually or as part of sets from online auction sites. Visit the Kentucky Derby Festival store their store, and see a selection of 2009 pins.

1974 Pegasus pin

1974 Pegasus pin

1978 Pegasus pin

1978 Pegasus pin

The official Kentucky Derby Festival poster
Since 1981, when renowned artist Peter Max designed the first colorful festival poster, artists from around the country have competed to provide the right prerace excitement every year. For 2009, it was two for one when it came to artists. Twins Doreen and Janeen Barnhart, designed this year’s exciting poster. Their design is featured on tote bags, glasses, T-shirts, glasses, hats and other Derby collectibles. Visit the Kentucky Derby Festival store if you’re interested in purchasing 2009 items or ones from past years. All of the past Derby posters are still available by visiting their store and ordering your favorite.

C. W, Vittitow, print signed by the artist

C. W, Vittitow, print signed by the artist

c-w-vittitow-print-signed-by-artist-2

Finally
There are other Derby collectibles beyond the officially sanctioned ones. There is an early travel poster such as the one issued by the C&O Railroad that advertised Kentucky as a travel destination rather than the Derby itself, plus old tickets, programs, newspapers featuring the winner, hats, balloons, key rings, T-shirts, Beanie horses, books, whiskey bottles, shot glasses, photos, DVDs, plates, software games, trivets and . . . who knows what else?

If you’re interested Kentucky Derby collectibles, don’t miss these informative videos, “Kentucky Derby Collectibles,” “Kentucky Derby Collectible Glasses” and “Kentucky Derby Museum.”

Coke bottle commemorating 1983 Kentucky Derby

Coke bottle commemorating 1983 Kentucky Derby

Beanie Baby 123rd derby horse

Beanie Baby 123rd Derby horse

1945 shot glass

1945 shot glass

If the Kentucky Derby is the ultimate in horse racing, then it is also the ultimate in horse-racing collectibles, too. So, get them while you can. Ready? Aaaand, we’re off!

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16 Responses to “Off to the Races with Kentucky Derby Collectibles”

  1. James Smith says:

    Hi
    I would like to know if you buy derby glass’s
    I have 6 1945 in mint shape,they are real not fakes.
    If interested my number is
    502 767-9679
    Thank you
    jim

    • Mary Brenneman Mary Brenneman says:

      You can post your items in the classifieds. As a member you can post some ads for free. You can register for our free trial membership at http://www.worthpoint.com/user2/createStep1
      I have Derby Glasses too. Each year I attend my friend Sharon’s Derby Party and she serves her mint juleps in that year’s Derby Glasses and gives them to guests as party favors. However 1945 goes back a long way. I see you live in the Louisville area from your area code. Try the classifieds. Send us a twitter when you post them at http://www.twitter.com/worthpoint
      I can’t wait to see them so ad pictures!
      mary

  2. Maryann U says:

    I’d appreciate any guidance about the metal and enamel piece I have from the 1988 Kentucky Derby, #114. It’s approximately 1.5″ X 3.75″, possibly made of brass, and seems to be a ticket to “Admit One” for $70.00 to Section 1, Box 122, Seat 3 – First Floor Clubhouse Box.

    Thank you very much!

    • Linda says:

      Maryann, I live in Louisville and that sounds like a keychain. I haven’t seen them in years, but when I was little I remember my Mom and several of my friends’ mothers had one. If it has a hole in the top to accept a loop, I’d say that’s what you have. That seat wouldn’t exist anymore (they remodeled the Downs several years ago) I’d expect, but back in the day that would have been a great seat. For Derby 1988, I was 19. I don’t remember it, but I’d be willing to bet a large sum I enjoyed it.

  3. Hello,
    I’ve been looking for a Ky Derby memorabilia discussion site to no avail.
    I have several Barbaro items: I’m hoping that in the future they will be highly collectible.
    Along with my own binder of newspaper clippings and a few magazines (Blood horse and a commemorative Barbaro magazine published around the time of his death). The crown jewels of my collection are jockey Edgar Prado’s book My Guy Barbaro which he autographed for me, and a fifth of bourbon in the Maker’s Mark, gold colored commemorative bottle which is in pristeen condition along with its gold colored presentation box. The label of the bourbon bottle was autographed by jockey Edgar Prado as he thanked me for “honoring Barbaro.”
    Do you suspect that at least my crown jewel items will be valuable in the future? Thanks for any information.

    • Tom Carrier Tom Carrier says:

      Elaine:

      It depends on how you define valuable. Will your items, any of your items, have a value enough to buy a new car or a new house or help you plan your retirement, then you’ll be disappointed. In each collectible category there are the “have to have” items and everything else. It’s the “have to have” items, the early, the unusual, the rare, the one of a kind that helps estate planning the most.

      In doing a quick glance at the auction results here on WorthPoint, there are any number of items for Barbaro that have been sold in recent years. The signatures, the signed posters, the newspapers, etc. The value of these items seem to be around $50 and less.

      However, I do like the Maker’s Mark bottle. I once had a similar Maker’s Mark commemorative created for a Reagan inaugural. That one went for $300 or so, because of how unusual and distinctive it was.

      And that brings me to my last point. Collectibility.

      If you are collecting only the ‘commemorative’ items sold by commercial companies, you will never reach that highly valued collectible. All these items are meant to be sold as commodities, not as collectibles no matter how many times they say it is one of a kind, rare, scarce, valuable in the future, whatever. They never are.

      If you really want to have a valuable collection, then you need to find the most unusual items associated with your interest. Another online auction featured a signed set of Kentucky Derby goggles signed by a jockey. That’s an unusual item right there. For your interest in Barbaro go beyond the traditional ‘commemorative’ items. Find the one or two things nobody has or thought to have. That will be the most valuable item you will have.

      But, just in case you missed the point of collecting. It isn’t always about value in the end. It’s about enjoyment. Collect what you like, what you enjoy first. The value will just naturally follow.

      Tom Carrier
      Worthologist

  4. Thank You Tom for your assessment.
    My commemorative Maker’s Mark (gold label and wax) is a presentation bottle complete with a gold colored presentation box and Mr. Prado, Barbaro’s jockey, signed the label for me making it, I think, more collectible than the rest of the M.M commemorative Barbaro bottles (it’s peers issued at the same time).
    And of course I saved the program from the local race I attended which is where I saw Edgar Prado. I saved the pen as well. I also have an autographed copy of the book Edgar Prado wrote,”My Guy Barbaro.” I have quite a few Barbaro newspaper clippings and photographs taken at various tracks as well. My unusual, “must have” pieces of the collection are pages of correspondence from the foreman of Babaro’s tomb in which he states my idea for one particular feature of the tomb was being “seriously considered” by Barbaro’s owners (even though the idea, to date, has not been made a reality). Also, letters of correspondence from Barbaro’s vet Dr. Dean Richardson that were e-mails to me during the weekend of the tomb’s unveiling. These items make the Barbaro connection to me, an avid fan of his, more real especially as time goes by. Barbaro died January 2007.
    While I would love to have seen Barbaro at a racetrack and never saw Barbaro while he was alive, at least I can plan a trip to Churchill Downs at any time, to visit Barbaro’s tomb.
    Thanks again.

  5. Larry Hanes says:

    I have a whiskey decanter I bought in 1979. It has the Kentucky Derby stands and Secretariat (head only) coming out of the front. I have been trying to find out something about this item but haven’t seen another one like it. It is signed on the back by Charles A. Wittwer. Made by Aesthetic Specialties, Inc. The bourbon is Kentucky Straight Bourbon. I can send you pictures if you want.
    Thank you,
    Larry Hanes

  6. Kristen says:

    I have a Kentucky Derby program from 1945 in excellent condition. Can you tell me the value and how to sell it?

    • Tom Carrier Tom Carrier says:

      Kristen:

      Doing just a quick review on WorthPoint, several different auction venues show that your 1945 Kentucky Derby program have recently sold for between $50 and $90. It can be higher and certainly lower depending on condition and scarcity and yours certainly fit both categories.

      There are many collectors and groups that deal strictly with Kentucky Derby, but visit GoAntiques.com, a sister site of WorthPoint.com to sell or review other Derby collectibles first.

      Thanks for visiting WorthPoint.com

      Tom Carrier
      Worthologist

  7. Hello Tom,
    I think I answered your question about the condition of Barbaro’s bourbon, that is, the commemorative Maker’s Mark bourbon bottle indicating Barbaro as the 2006 Ky Derby winner. The gold colored wax drips are intact as far as I know but I haven’t taken the bottle out for inspection for some time. When I e-mailed a bourbon distributor for their opinion on maintaining the bronze color of bourbon I was told to keep the bottle out of direct sunlight. So the bottle is at constant temperature year round. To my knowlege, still in the gold foil presentation box, should have intact wax drips – I haven’t inspected the bottle in a while. And as I mentioned earlier, Edgar Prado, Barbaro’s jockey in the ’06 Ky Derby and the fateful (career ending) ’06 Preakness Stakes autographed the bottle while I was attending a race at my local track.
    I know that Maker’s Mark, the company, didn’t make the commemorative bottles themselves but that endeavor was done by someone else or some private company, either way, I believe the commemorative bottle to be a limited edition item and who knows if any other bottles in that collection were ever autographed by the late horse’s jockey-the one that raced Barbaro during the Ky Derby (his “sublime” performance) and the fateful Preakness race.
    Today I added a color photo of Barbaro, head and neck shot, to my collection. Beautiful photo of Barbaro on professional photography paper. Maybe as more years go by and Barbaro becomes more of a legend rather than the horse that fought a brave battle then died 8 months after his break down at Pimlico (died 5 years ago this year), the value of the commemorative bottle will increase. Haven’t seen anything like it on e-bay in years.
    Thanks.

  8. Anyone out there assessing value for wedding gowns?
    My dress is a dress rather than a gown as it is tea
    length. I’m learning with a steep learning curve that
    the value of lace alone is increasing depending upon the
    type of lace used. I was searching for the manufacturer of the dress, a New York city company at the time the dress was featured in Brides magazine (1984), but the company is long gone. However the dress is still pristine and it was used for my 1985 wedding, restored some time ago, only 1 restoration to date. I have schiffli lace appliques throughout the bodice, sleeves and skirt of the dress as well as the yoke or back of the dress. The dress is covered with these large appliques front and back, to the neck, to include the sleeves. I still have the manufacturers description of the dress-though it was written on the stationery of the bridal shop I used. Apparently true schiffli of this era and before, are valued. I researched a lot of old lace online last year and not just on e-bay but it seems older lace or “vintage” lace is at a premium. My 1985 dress is considered vintaqe. What are your thoughts on lace appliques? Thanks.

  9. roger dodd says:

    i have every derby pin since 1973 how much is this complete set worth

  10. andy kruse says:

    I brought 6 derby glasses home from this years derby 2013 two of them clearly do not have secretariat marked on them as being a triple crown winner.Any info on these or any idea how many were misprinted like this? thxs

  11. Tom Carrier says:

    Andy:

    It has been acknowledged that there are misprints on the 2013 Derby Mint Julep glass according to this article in the Courier-Journal, but it shows a misprint for the 1948 Kentucky Derby, not the one you refer to:

    http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20130503/DERBYFUN/305030133/2013-Derby-glass-has-misprint

    A quick glance through the Worthopedia shows that a recent auction price for a single 2013 Derby Mint Julep glass (and there was only one auction) was $15. Perhaps in time it will have a greater value.

    Thanks for the question.

    Tom Carrier
    Worthologist

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