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5 things you might not know about the Territorial Cup itself

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Posted at 5:15 PM, Nov 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-21 19:15:59-05

The Territorial Cup is the oldest rivalry trophy in the United States. Created in 1899, it is awarded to the winner of the annual football game between the Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats.

But the history of the Territorial Cup itself is fascinating, and probably not as cut-and-dry as you might think. Here are five things you might now know about the 118-year-old trophy.

1. It wasn't intended to be a rivalry trophy

The Territorial Cup was not originally used as a prize for the ASU-UA winner. It was created in 1899 as an award for the Normals following their championship in the inaugural (and short-lived) Arizona Territorial Football League.

The inscription on the cup itself reads "Arizona Foot Ball League Championship 1899 Normal."

2. It cost $20

The Territorial Cup was manufactured by Reed & Barton, a Massachusetts-based silversmith manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy in 2015. The cup, which is silverplate over Britannia base metal, was originally priced at $20 -- the equivalent of about $560 today.

For what it's worth: Mini-Territorial Cups, which were given to UA season ticket holders before the season, can be purchased for just under $20 apiece on eBay.

3. It went missing for over 80 years

The Territorial Cup itself was an afterthought for decades for the simple reason that it had vanished shortly after the 1899 football season. No one seems to know how and why it disappeared, but it turned up in a Tempe church basement in 1983. It was then returned to ASU and displayed on campus.

4. It wasn't given to the winner until 2001

ASU put the Territorial Cup on display at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport before Super Bowl XXX was to be played in Tempe in January 1996. One day, Arizona Wildcats alumni recognized the cup as they were passing through the airport and contacted ASU about possibly borrowing it to display on UA campus.

This led to discussions between the two schools that eventually led to an agreement in which the winner of the annual ASU-UA football game would be given the cup to showcase at their university throughout the following year.

It wasn't until 2001 that the Territorial Cup was first awarded to the ASU-UA winner. The Wildcats won that game 34-21 in Tempe.

5. There are two Territorial Cups

Since the original Territorial Cup is over 100 years old and quite fragile, a replica was created to be used for on-field celebrations. ASU and UA split the cost of the replica, and ASU provided a travel case for it.

The agreement between the two schools includes strict guidelines for the handling and transportation of the original and replica Territorial Cups. For example: The original cup is always to be handled with white cotton gloves and never be cleaned, while the replica "may be cleaned as needed using an appropriate silver cleaner or polish." Then-ASU president Lattie Coor and then-UA president Peter Likins signed the agreement.