CUPS AND TROPHIES
Yesterday's sporting trophies are still much prized by enthusiasts, who enjoy the associations as well as the appearance and durability of their collections.
The practice of awarding trophies dates hack to ancient Greece, where the spoils of victory were laid out on the battlefield along with an inscription detailing events of the fight and a dedication to the gods. In more recent times the victor of a sporting event has been honoured with the rather more practical award of a cup, a shield or a statuette - things that the collector finds highly attractive today.
Some of the finest of these belong to the racing world. The prizes for the Sport of Kings have benefited from their royal associations, some of the trophies being very grand indeed. The first racecourse was established in the reign of Henry VIII on the Rodee at Chester in 1540 and there was an annual prize in the form of a solid gold or silver bell. By the time of James I, a keen racegoer, cups had been adopted as prizes. Unlike today, these trophies were awarded to the winner for keeps, and constituted part or all of the prize.
An Act of 1740 decreed that no event could he worth less than £50 to the winner. The money for these trophies and cash prizes was raised from the owners themselves and in the form of stakes and forfeits. Money was also raised by public subscriptions and by entry fees to the courses.
By 1900 the energies of the Jockey Club meant that Ascot could afford to give £37,000 in prize money to its 28 races.
Every sport has its famous trophies - the Open Golf Championship's claret jug, boxing's glittering Lonsdale belt, the various incarnations of football's World Cup - and over the years they have served as inspiration to countless sports clubs and schools awarding prizes to their champions, who have traditionally been the envy of their peers at prize-giving ceremonies. Though, for example, the Grand National Trophy is out of reach of the collector, many of these lesser known trophies, some of them quite grand in their own right, have come into the hands of the collector, and for the sports enthusiast there is a wealth of prizes to be, if not won, bought.
Well-polished silverware is always attractive, whether positioned on a mantelpiece or shelf or in a glass-fronted trophy cabinet. Engraved cups, plaques and the like are also conversation pieces with visitors.
The most prestigious sporting cups and trophies have always provided a great opportunity for silversmiths to demonstrate their skills and imagination. Some makers have made their names and built their reputations on the trophies they have produced, and consequent y there are some very ornate examples. Equally, some cups were made relatively cheaply, with no frills and a fairly simple inscription.
Collectors in this field tend to fall into two categories. The first are those who are interested in a particular sport and are keen to assemble trophies bearing inscriptions of famous names or marking important events. Trophies have not always been recalled annually to be re-awarded, and so there could be many cups made for a particular event. Also, replicas are sometimes made for the winner to keep - this is done, for example, at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships - and these small replicas may occasionally find their way into the collectors' sphere.
The other type of enthusiasts are those who collect cups across all sports. These tend to be interested in the more eye-catching trophies. Since World War 2 most sporting spoils have been made in base metals which are usually silver-plated or perhaps chromed, but before that they were often made in solid silver or they have faced the danger of being melted down, and , in fact, many trophies have been lost in this way.
IMPORTANCE OF NAMES
Just as a famous name can increase value for the sports enthusiast, the name of a nonentity can make a piece less desirable to the collector, who would prefer a blank escutcheon. A trophy for a famous sporting event will always have an added value for collectors.