The Big Gold Belt is a historic professional wrestling championship belt that has represented multiple world championships throughout its history.Originally designed in 1985 by silversmith Charles Crumrine
The creator of the original Big Gold belt was Charles Crumrine. Crumrine makes rodeo belt buckles and has had a shop in Nevada for decades. Unfortunately, Charles passed away, but an employee, Alice, who worked with Charles back then is still there and was a huge help in gathering a lot of previously unknown information on the belt.
The original Big Gold was used throughout NWA and WCW until mid/late 2000. It was referred to as the “Big Gold belt” in a few promos by Ric Flair, and I believe one of the old TBS announcers referred to it that. Thus, many fans and collectors still refer to it as “the big gold” to this day.
Nelson Royal originally ordered the belt in late 1985/early 1986, on behalf of the NWA. The original concept artwork for the belt had the NWA letters featured prominently at the top. After hearing the quoted price, the NWA did chose not to purchase it. Nelson purchased it with no letters or logos and intended to use it for himself. Once Jim Crockett Jr. saw the completed belt, he loved it and bought it from Nelson.
The belt was hand engraved by 3 people, Charles Crumrine, Victor Ortiz and Jeanne Lashelle (Charles’ daughter). The original plates were releathered several times, which is why it had a cordovan strap in the early days, and a black strap in WCW. In the late 90′s, the person in charge of props for WCW, had the plates replated.
This is why the belt went from looking dual plated and shiny, to that dull, all orange look. The plates are solid sterling silver, which are hand engraved. Elements such as the rope border, wrestlers, crown, stone holders and letters are soldered on.
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The letters are not a font, but hand made letters done by Crumrine. You will not find this as a standard font anywhere. The sterling silver plates had areas masked off before it was tank plated gold. After gold plating, the masking agent was removed to reveal the silver underneath. This is what gives it the 2-tone look.
The belt was ordered with these removable nameplates:
The “Rick” was a typo, so it was only used briefly while a proper “Ric Flair” nameplate was made. Crumrine was sent back the “Rick Flair” nameplate and kept it. The “Ric Flair” nameplate is owned today by Dave Millican. I have no idea where the other nameplates ended up, but if they are original, they will have the Crumrine logo engraved on the back.
Many books and articles quote the cost of the belt around $28,000. This is false. Nelson paid around $12,000+ for it. Nelson did frequent business with Crumrine, as he had his own western buckle store on the side. He received a better price due to this frequent business. When people called Crumrine, regarding the price of having one made, they were frequently quoted $25,000+ as a way to deter them from purchasing one.
The jewels in the belt were cubic zirconium and fake rubies. In Ric Flair’s book, he mentioned how some wrestlers popped out these stones and tried selling them, thinking they were real. Because of this, the holes in the stone holders had to be drilled deeper and larger stones were placed in the belt every time.
In 1999/2000 WCW had the original belt casted. Copies were made for Kevin Nash, DDP, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner and possibly 1 other person. Jarrett wore his cast copy at Bash At The Beach 2000. That is the belt he lost to Hulk Hogan, that Hogan took home with him, and that Hogan claims is the original. (which it is not) Jeff would then lose the original Big Gold Belt, later that night to Booker T.
In our next article we will address where the Big Gold Belt is today. Thanks for reading.