The History of Trophies

Sports trophies are most easily defined as a symbol or token of victory. Sports trophies are generally symbolized through some form of miniature statue-most typically colored gold or even made of gold, depending on the importance of the event. Ultimately, all sports trophies are a memento of personal achievement.

Throughout history, trophies were commonly seen as a token. After a battle, a soldier may have taken a portion of his enemy's armor or even a body part. In Spain, a successful torero would receive one or two bull's ears depending on how well he had performed or how cleanly the bull had been killed.

Sports trophies made in the form of cups are the oldest form of "man-made" award. Trophies made for the express purpose of commemorating an event date back to the mid 18th century. Tracing the origin of the trophy cup also called a loving cup is less easy. One explanation gives credit to John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church. In the early days of the church they had "loving feasts" which included passing around a "loving cup" from person to person in the spirit of community. The cup had handles on each side to facilitate easy passing.

Some trophy cups used as awards for famous and prestigious events have become legendary, like the Stanley Cup, which is awarded to the winning hockey team each year.

Trophy medals also have a long and distinguished history. The oldest being perhaps Great Britain's Victoria Cross or perhaps those of the Olympics. While victorious Olympians were once crowned with laurel, modern athletes are adorned with medals of gold, silver and bronze. The history of this is unknown, though the traditional first, second and third with the appropriate metal has continued. It can be assumed that the more valuable the metal the higher the ranking. Interesting note, when the modern Olympics began in 1896 first place was awarded a silver medal as silver was thought to be more precious than gold. This ended 8 years later at the St. Louis Olympics. Medals commemorate all types of events from the military-the Purple Heart-to literary honors like the Nobel Prize.