Copyright © 1999
Tom Sporney, Cindy Pierson,
Collector Glass News, issue 53, April/May 1999
Kentucky Derby glass collecting used to be such an easy pastime. One
glass each year, one design each year. A mistake glass here and there -
But the mass marketing of the last 15 years has affected horseracing
collectibles substantially, especially in the 1990's with the new limited
edition mentality. Although production of official "garden-variety"
Triple Crown drinking glasses is in the 6-7 figure range, numerous limited
editions and expanded lines have saturated the market.
The first of the expansion categories to take off was shotglasses. In 1987, two 1½ oz. and two 3 oz. shots were issued to commemorate the 113th Kentucky Derby. Today, those original shots
remain the priciest of the modern shots. In successive years, the Derby shotglass line has slowly grown with the addition of shooters (tall shot), cordials (shooter with a handle), borels (miniature mug), fluted shots, and various other designs.
1996, the first "limited edition" set of 3 shotglasses appeared, with 3600 sets being produced.
1996 was also the year of the
"unauthorized" shots; about 12 shot designs different from the official
releases made their way to the secondary market. The glut peaked in 1997
with a total of 10 different official shotglasses as well as the 3-shot
limited edition set. This year for Derby 125 there are currently "only" 6
official shots and the 3-piece limited edition set. A new stainless steel
limited edition shot seems to be the early hot item and was sold out to
dealers before the collectors even had a chance at it.
Not to be left out of the fun, the Preakness (1992), Belmont (1992), and Breeders' Cup (1988) picked up on shotglasses too. 1996 was the first year of limited edition Preakness shots. 1997 marked the first appearance of two "unofficial" BC shots produced by Louisville entrepreneurs. Of this group, the '92 Preakness & Belmont shots are in the greatest demand.
When the market was finally saturated with shotglasses, expansion of the
line of regular size glasses started 1997 with numbered, limited editions printed in gold. That first year, a limited edition four-glass set (Derby, Preakness, Belmont, and "Triple Crown") retailed at $40 per glass. In 1998, the retail price for the Kentucky Derby limited edition doubled to $80, while the rest remained at $40.
Also in 1998 a set of three $40 glasses were printed in silver to
commemorate the 25th anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown, replicas of the 1973 Derby and Preakness glasses, plus a new Belmont glass showing
Big Red's 31-length win, since the first Belmont glasses were not produced
until 1976. Then the Breeder's Cup jumped on the gold limited edition
bandwagon for the second time in 1998 to produce a glass for its 15th
anniversary, despite lukewarm demand for its 1993 10th anniversary gold
limited edition glass.
Even unofficial or "bar glasses" have gotten caught up in this
explosion. These are glasses produced from the 1950's through the
1980's for Derby festivities leading up to the first Saturday in May. They
used to be fun items that could be picked up for a couple bucks just a few
years ago. At a show during the New Year's holiday, fairly common bar
glasses were seen with asking prices of $30 to $50!
This overabundance of horseracing glasses is starting to have its
effect, and prices realized for gold limited edition glasses are
starting to slide. Collectors are simply fed up with the way the
manufacturers are milking the collectors' market and are losing
interest in the artificial collectibles. This is causing demand to
shift back to the truly hard-to-find older glasses which hold their