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Over the last two decades, the sports memorabilia industry has exploded. Sports cards, souvenirs, and programs that were once considered throw-away items and toys are now kept in mint condition and resold on the open markets. The rise of eBay has made it easier for buyers and sellers to match up, further advancing the sports memorabilia marketplace. Since 1999 Eclipse Press has published the Kentucky Derby Glasses Price Guide, which has become horse racing's equivalent of the influential Beckett Guides used by other sports. In this, its fourth edition which is updated for 2008, editor Judy Marchman, together with six well-known experts in this field, had compiled a list of every piece of Kentucky Derby glassware ever produced along with the current market value for each. Photographs of each piece are also included for easier identification. It is worth noting that there are so many unofficial glasses that the uninformed collector could find himself paying hundreds for a glass only worth $5 to $10.
While looking through the guide, readers will notice that for some years there are variations, often with drastically different prices for each. These range from limited edition glasses printed in gold, to manufacturers defects or errors in the information printed (the erroneous glasses tend to fetch higher prices as they are rarer), to variations in the material used (one year Churchill Downs used glasses in the grandstand and plastic cups in the infield, the plastic ones being rarer and more valuable). The guide is not limited to just Mint Julep glasses, as the Kentucky Derby shot glasses in their many variations (including stainless steel), have proven to be more valuable than the julep glasses for some years as they are produced in smaller numbers. So much so, in fact, that several unauthorized shot glasses were produced for the 1996 running, and these are noted in the guide with asterisks.
The market for horse racing glassware is not limited to the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness and Belmont followed suit starting in the 1970's with similar glasses used to serve their signature drinks to fans at the track, and these glasses are featured immediately after the Derby section. Finally, the Breeders' Cup World Championships has had glassware since its second year, and a complete guide to these is also included. The Breeders' Cup has sold julep glasses and shots almost every year, and like the Derby the shots are generally more valuable than the glasses. At the back of the book, Marchman includes a "Quick Reference Price List", which lists all the glassware with their prices in fine print which makes for a convenient checklist. The price guide values are a bit inflated since they were averaged from several sources including dealers in the higher-priced Louisville market, so the book is useful for listing what should be the highest price a glass should sell for in the open market like eBay.
The sports memorabilia market will continue to grow and those planning on seriously collecting Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup glassware will find this is an invaluable tool. Prices have remained relatively stagnant lately so the book should be fairly accurate until the next edition in three years or so, but the photos for identifying glasses will be good forever. Those who frequent flea markets and garage sales may find that the Derby glass they bought for $5 is actually worth thousands, the collector's equivalent of hitting a Pick 6.
Kentucky Derby Glasses Price Guide has a list price of $16.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $12.71.
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