It’s the homestretch of the Kentucky Derby. Carpe Diem and American Pharaoh are neck and neck. Carpe Diem pulls ahead and wins! The crowd cheers. The horse and the jockey head to the Winner’s Circle. A rose wreath is placed on the horse, and trophies are awarded to the winners. The horse’s owner gets the full-size gold trophy, while the jockey, trainer, and breeder all receive half-size silver replicas. The Kentucky Derby trophy is the only solid-gold trophy awarded annually in American sports. While nothing competes with the honor of winning the Kentucky Derby, the trophy comes close. But how much is the solid-gold owner’s trophy worth in cold hard cash?
The Kentucky Derby trophy is truly a masterpiece. Twenty-two inches tall, the trophy is crafted by New England Sterling Company, from North Attleboro, Massachusetts. The trophy is composed of 29 gold parts, and takes nearly 2,000 man-hours to create. The base is made of jade, while the rest of the trophy is solid gold. The main component of the trophy is composed of 14-karat yellow gold, as well as small amounts of green gold. On the top of the trophy is a small figurine of a horse and rider, made of 18-karat yellow gold. An 18-karat yellow gold horseshoe adorns the front of the trophy. All this gold weighs in at 56 ounces. Which makes this trophy incredibly valuable in precious metals alone.
According to the Kentucky Derby’s numbers, as of 2008, the trophy was valued at $90,000 in raw materials. Since gold prices have increased substantially since 2008, when gold was on average between $800 and $900 an ounce, it’s safe to say the trophy’s value is a lot more today. But it’s not just the gold that makes the Kentucky Derby trophy valuable — it’s the glory.
Aside from its value in gold and ornamentation, each Kentucky Derby trophy holds a special place in horse-racing history. If the trophy were won on an anniversary year for instance, it would have added value. Or if the win were an upset, collectors would be willing to spend more. In 2012, the 1991 Kentucky Derby trophy went up for auction. While the final bid amount is undisclosed, the auctioneers expected it to sell for at least $150,000.
An educated estimate of the value for the 141st Kentucky Derby trophy is $200,000. The race itself will also play a part in determining that, so the value is by no means final. But of course, you can’t put a price tag on victory. Which is why very few of these magnificent trophies are ever sold.
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