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Different Types of Trophies and Their Meanings

The word “trophy” originates from the Greek “tropaion,” which refers to the practice of building a monument commemorating a military victory. Smaller and more portable versions of tropaion were given to ancient Olympic athletes as tangible items of recognition for their athletic feats, and this is when trophy diversity was born because the items ranged from amphorae to silver cups and from shields to vases. These days, trophy styles and types have different meanings.

Types of Trophies

A trophy is a symbol and a reminder of a significant accomplishment; it should convey adequate meaning. Cups, plaques, and medals are the most traditional trophy types derived from the vases and shields given to ancient Olympians. Today’s trophy materials include metal, wood, crystal, and acrylics. The 

Grammy Award is shaped like a gramophone with a highly stylized horn.

In the trophy industry, the type of a trophy is not necessarily the same as the shape. Examples of popular trophy types include:

  • Belt
  • Desktop acrylic or crystal
  • Desktop clock
  • Desktop Pen Set
  • Medal with ribbon
  • Paperweight
  • Perpetual
  • Photo Frame
  • Plaque
  • Sculpture
  • Vase
  • Wall Clock

Modern Trophy Shapes

As for trophy shapes, some of the most common are:

  • Animal
  • Arch
  • Book
  • Cross
  • Column
  • Cube
  • Diamond
  • Flame
  • Gavel
  • Gear
  • Globe
  • Heart
  • House
  • Microphone
  • Number
  • Pyramid
  • Rectangle
  • Star
  • Wings
  • Years of Service

The list above is incomplete; trophy manufacturers have more shapes and can create new ones from custom orders. Sometimes, two standard shapes, such as a circle and a star, can be arranged on the same base or platform.

Various Trophy Meanings

We already know that trophies are durable mementos of awards given for accomplishments. There is an unwritten rule about only awarding trophies when there are only three or fewer awards to be given; for example, a community soccer league that organizes a tournament with a final match can give a large trophy to the victorious team and a smaller one to the runner-up. Medals work out better when there are four or more awards to be given, especially when you have team sports in which each victorious team member should be recognized.

Cups are classic awards for any competition; they work in many fields and situations beyond sports. In call centers specializing in customer retention, for example, awarding a trophy cup to the agent with the most “saves” in a quarter is highly adequate. At the corporate level, awarding a trophy in the shape of a pyramid is a classy practice that dates back to the 1980s, and it is often given to recognize employees’ efforts. The connotation is that the pyramids of ancient Egypt took considerable work to complete, and the building process stretched over many generations. Now, if you are considering recognizing employees who have been with the company for a while, a more appropriate trophy shape would be the number of years.

Returning to athletic competitions and team sports, plaques and cups are acceptable at the team level, but unique shapes work out even better. Baseballs, basketballs, and soccer balls are perfect trophy shapes whenever you need to award one or two teams. If the tournament you manage features individual recognition awards such as most valuable player or highest scorer, you will want to consider statuette trophy shapes depicting athletes. This does not always apply to golf tournaments because trophy cups are more commonly awarded, but the shape of a club and a ball is also popular for this sport. Belts are exclusive for fighting sports such as boxing and mixed-martial arts.

For the most part, trophy shapes are self-explanatory, which means that the meaning is visually implied. For example, a trophy shaped like a book would be ideal in academic settings, and the same can be said about a gavel-shaped trophy awarded to an attorney. Thanks to advanced acrylic materials and production machines, you can request just about any trophy shape.

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