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, Kentucky 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 ultimate souvenir of any Kentucky Derby is the winner itself, a three 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.
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. 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.
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 current, officially sanctioned Kentucky Derby 2008 silk scarf is through the exclusive distributor sanctioned by Churchill Downs at http://www.horseartgallery.com or ordering directly from Judy Starr at a cost of $350 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. Get a pin starter kit for 2008 and included is a new addition, a lanyard. 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 their store and see a full selection of pins past and present.
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 pre-race excitement every year. For 2008, artist Rick Garcia of Santa Fe, New Mexico contributed a colorful rendition that includes all of the elements of the Kentucky Derby Festival. His design will be featured on t-shirts, glasses, used in media advertising and on many more Derby collectibles. All of the past Derby posters are still available by visiting their store and ordering your favorite.
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, DVD’s, plates, software games, trivets and … who knows what else?
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!
Official Kentucky Derby Festival site
History of the Kentucky Derby Festival
Kentucky Derby Officially Sanctioned Scarves
Kentucky Derby official posters, pins and other memorabilia
About the Kentucky Derby Museum with a video presentation