Trash or Treasure: Horse race inspired Kentucky Derby

By Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Ed McHale was curious about a number of items in his possession and brought a few to the most recent appraisal held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. There appraiser Brian Thomczek had a mix of good and not-so-good news.

One of the most striking was a 19th-century 10 by 14-inch hand-tinted color copy of a black-and-white image of what McHale said was the Derby Stakes (also known as the Epsom Derby) horse race in England.  “This print was in a book,” McHale explained in his original email asking for an appraisal. “The image has print in French on the reverse side. There is a fold in the center… a friend gave it to me recently. He said it was in the collection of an art museum which had released it from their permanent collection.”

The Derby Stakes (also known as the Epsom Derby)

He added a little more detail at the event and mentioned that the image had been printed in in the French periodical “Le Monde” with black ink on white newsprint but had no idea who had done the hand tinting. Thomczek identified the image as a late 19th-century print and said that it would be worth about $75 to $100 framed.

“Our Kentucky Derby was inspired by this horse race,” McHale told the appraiser. Internet research supported this, with information that the race dates back to 1780 and that it’s traditionally run the first Saturday in June. Part of the British Triple Crown, it’s considered among Britain’s richest horse races. Run at Epsom Downs, it was named after its original host, the 12th Earl of Derby, said the appraiser, hence the name.    

McHale also brought two reverse-painted Asian glass panels, one with a female figure and the other with a male. Thomczek said that they were made in China for export about 1960 and that “they are in really good shape,” he told McHale. “They’re not signed, but there’s a Made in China label and they have a brass hook. Having a pair of them is nice.” He estimated the pair’s value at $150.

Ed McHale with two Asian panels

McHale brought two stained glass pieces he bought in Toronto in the late 1960s. “I don’t remember the artist’s name,” he told the appraiser, adding that the signature on the base is no longer legible. Both set in a wood base, one depicts a cat, the other what McHale always thought was a jumping fish. Thomczek said the glass would qualify as folk art, and each would be worth about $40 at auction.

McHale planned to keep the print and the Asian images, but wasn’t sure about the rest. “I’m going to hang on to them,” he said of the panels. “They need to stay together.”

About these items:

Item: Print, panels, stained glass.

Owned by: Ed McHale

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $75 and up

Attention Collectors: Interested in seeing your collection in our pages? If so, send a paragraph about your collection and what appeals to you about it along with a photo photos of you with items in your collection to If chosen, we will be in touch. We are also taking items for our next appraisal session to be held downtown at DuMouchelles. If you are interested, please send a photo with your item and how you acquired it to the above address.