History of the Melbourne Cup Trophy – things you didn’t know!

Today is the race that stops the nation, and one of the most recognisable trophy’s in the world. Today as we all puts our bets on and hope for the winner, the Engravers Register thought we would take a look at the history of the Melbourne Cup Trophy, courtesy of the official Melbourne Cup website “The Loving Cup Trophy“. Good luck with your bets – we all hope you back a winner! PLUS good luck to all the trainers, jockeys and owners – who wouldn’t want to hold that Cup aloft!

‘The Loving Cup Trophy” – from the official Melbourne Cup websiteThe Loving Cup Trophy

The Emirates Melbourne Cup Trophy is a stunning 18 carat gold trophy. Noted for its “Loving Cup” design, the trophy is one of the most identifiable sporting trophies in the world.

It is a national icon embedded in Australia’s cultural fabric and strikes emotions with all ages around the country.


The Cup, as we know it today, was first designed by Mr James Steeth in readiness for the 1919 Melbourne Cup won by Artilleryman. He was commissioned by the VRC to design the trophy which would be in keeping with the prestige of the race. Little did the committee, or Steeth for that matter, realise that they would develop the icon we know today.

The Cup was manufactured by Drummonds Jewellers and handmade by James W. Steeth and Son. Maurice Steeth took over manufacturing the Cup from his father yet following Maurice’s premature death, it was left to his able assistant ‘Lucky’ Rocca to continue the tradition.

In 1980, the making of the Cup was then entrusted to Hardy Brothers Jewellers and the same processes commenced in 1919 are still adopted today. Mr Stuart Bishop, Chief Executive of Hardy Brothers Jewellers is entrusted with this responsibility today. It is made of 34 pieces of gold metal hand beaten over 200 hours.

The evolution of the Cup from the inception of the Melbourne Cup race in 1861 is quite fascinating and reflective of a people determined to develop a symbol reflective of a developing nation.

The following timeline charts the Cup history:

1840 – 1900

  • 1861 : Archer – The trophy took the form of a hand beaten gold watch.
  • 1865 : Toryboy – First year the trophy was awarded. Manufactured in England, the trophy was an elaborate silver bowl on a stand.
  • 1867 : Tim Whiffler – Silver trophy from England shows ‘Alexander Taming the Horse’, the engraved name of the winning horse and the figure of a winged female.
  • 1868 – 1875 : No mention of trophy presented.
  • 1876 : Briseis – The first gold cup trophy manufactured in Victoria. An Etruscan shape with two handles. One side depicted a picture of a horserace with the grandstand and hill of Flemington in the background. The opposite side, inscribed on a crimson enamelled garter, the words “Melbourne Cup, 1876” and the name of the winning horse.
  • 1877 – 1886 : No trophy presented.
  • 1887 : Dunlop – A golden horseshoe mounted on a plush stand and valued at 100 sovereigns.
  • 1888 : Mentor – Known as the “Centenary Cup”, three horses appeared on a silver-plated base.
  • 1890 : Carbine – This magnificent trophy reflected the opulence of the time. A silver ewer, salver and tazzas are representative of this magnificent trophy. The trophy was purchased by the VRC in 2000 and is on permanent display at the National Sports Museum at the MCG, Melbourne.
  • 1891 : Malvolio – A trophy measuring two feet in length and fifteen inches high of a draped figure of Victory, standing on a pedestal, holding out an olive wreath to a jockey upon his horse.
  • 1893 : Tarcoola – Multi-piece trophy of silver tankard, punch bowl and beakers.
  • 1894 – 1898 : Trophies were not presented as the economic depression engulfed the nation.
  • 1900 : A tea and coffee service was presented.

1901s – 1920s

  • 1908 : Three feet long plaque of an embossed silver galloping horse, that some people thought resembled a greyhound. A much ridiculed design for trophy.
  • 1909 – 1911 : Two-handled silver cups.
  • 1913 : Silver epergne.
  • 1914 : This was the last year the Melbourne Cup Trophy was made in England. It had a long base with a horse on each end facing out and a chalice cup in the centre.
  • 1915 : A large rose bowl that was made in Australia.
  • 1916 : The first gold cup is presented.
  • 1918 : Two-handled gold cup trophy.
  • 1919 : James Steeth’s three-handled “Loving Cup” first introduced.

1950s – 1970s

  • 1973 : Smaller Melbourne Cup miniatures are presented to the winning trainer and jockey.

2000 – present

  • 2001 : The Cup moves from 9ct to 18ct gold. Valued at $80,000. A 2/3 height miniature of the Cup is presented to the trainer and jockey.
  • 2005 : The breeder of the Cup winner will be presented with a Melbourne Cup half-sized Cup.
  • 2008 : The value of the Cup trophy is increased to $125,000 reflecting the rising price of gold. Trainer, jockey, strapper and breeder trophies are also increased bringing total value of all trophies to $150,000.

For more historical information on the Loving Cup trophy and to see it for yourself:

The above content has been reproduced from the official Melbourne Cup website “The Loving Cup Trophy“. All content that has been reproduced is owned by the Victorian Racing Club Limited.