The Guinness Book Of World Records recently created a new category: world's largest
shotglass collection. The Guinness people claim that the world record collection
contains 8,411 unique shotglasses. Since there is no "official" body for making decisions
about shotglasses, I wonder how the Guinness people determined the record. The way
that I see it, there are two important parts to this record:
the collection was made of shotglasses, and
that the members of the collection were unique.
What is a Shotglass
So how did the Guinness people decide if something was a shotglass? I am not sure of what
the Guinness people used as their definition for a shotglass, but if they used the
"most common" definition, I think they got it wrong.
Most people would say that a shotglass is "a small glass with thick sides and heavy base
used to drink alcohol." I will call this the "classic" definition -- it fits most of the
glasses made during the 1950s and 1960s, but misses many of the glasses made today. In
fact, this definition misses the most common type of glass made today, the glasses with
the shape that I call "standard." Most of the "standard" glasses made today no longer have
or a thick base, and many of them come with the statement "not to be used for food or drink"
molded into their base, so they should not be used to consume alcohol.
What makes a Shotglass "unique"
For the moment, I'll skip the rest of the "what is a shotglass" question and look at the
second part of the record -- "uniqueness." What was the criteria that the Guinness
people used to decide if a glass was "unique?" I do not know, but if we examine some
glasses, maybe we can determine what needs to be looked at to decide if two glasses are
different, and hope that the Guinness people followed similar rules.
Kentucky Derby Glasses
There have been shotglasses made for one or more of the races of the triple crown since
1987. These glasses, especially those from later years, are great examples of the
varieties and variations that will be encountered during the hobby of collecting
shotglasses. Kentucky Derby collectibles are widely collected, and there are collector's
guides for Kentucky Derby items that include prices for shotglasses.
To illustrate the variety of glasses that exist today, let us consider the 1997 Kentucky
Derby, where according to one collector's guide, there were at least 11 different glasses:
a multi-colored design on a "standard" shaped glass, and on a "square" glass
a black and gold design on a "double" and on a "3 ounce" glass
a gold design on "standard" shaped glasses of 4 different colors (blue, green, wine and "black")
a multi-colored wraparound design on a "standard" shaped glass made of ceramic
a gold design on a blue "shooter" style glass
an acid etched design on a "double"
By comparing the entries on this list, we can determine what makes each of the 11 glasses different:
The first group tells us that "glass shape" is important
the next pair adds a new factor: "design color" is important
the next group adds a new factor: "glass color" is important
the next item adds two new factors:
that the "description" of the design is important (does it wrap around the whole glass)
that the "material" that the glass is made out of is important
The differences between the 1997 Kentucky Derby glasses illustrate most (5) of the
important factors, but miss one factor, which the 1993 glasses illustrate well. In 1993,
there were two versions of the Kentucky Derby glass made: The
base of one glass indicated it was made in America, while the other glass
indicated that it was made in Korea. Today, the Korean glass is worth less than the
American one. This means that the last criteria that needs to be examined is
"who made the glass" (and sometimes where was it made) -- I call this the "glass manufacturer".
There are six characteristics that should be included when describing a shotglass:
Description: What elements make up the design
Design Color: The Colors used in the design
Glass Shape: The Shape of the glass
Glass Material: What is the "glass" made of: ceramic, metal, plastic, and wood are common examples (other than glass)
Glass Color: The Color of the material the glass is made out of
Glass Manufacturer: What is the "maker's mark" on the base of the glass
So, in determining the world record, the Guinness people should have looked at each glass
and compared these six characteristics for each glass. If all of the characteristics for
a glass matched the characteristics of another glass, then the glass is a duplicate and
should not be counted toward the record. If any one of the characteristics were
different, the glasses were different and should be counted toward the record. Is this
what the Guinness people did? I do not know.
What is a Shotglass (cont.)
The Kentucky derby list includes a number of items that do not fit the "classic"
definition for a shotglass. The "square" and "3 ounce" glasses do not have thick sides, or thick bases.
The "blue shooter" has a thick base but very thin sides. The 1993 glasses that
I mentioned include the phrase "not to be used for food or drink" on their base. So, either
the "classic" definition needs to be abandoned, or people have to stop collecting all of these
items that are not shotglasses. I think it is easier (and better) to use a new definition.