I am certainly going to send thank you notes but my parents keep telling me I should also give them a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates or something and I don't know if that's appropriate or not.
OMG seriously bottle of wine?!?!? I guess you folks have money because my recommenders would be shocked to get something like that for me. Only time I do the bottle of wine is when I go to Europe and stock up because its cheaper...lol
For one of mine, which was a boss of mine and someone I still consider a mentor/dad figure I'll probably send him a silly ecard because I know he would get a kick out of that. That's more of his personality and something he wouldn't expect. For the other, she was my supervisor and we are good friends, so I'll be taking her out to lunch.
Yeah, it really depends on how well you know the person. I don't think profs write recs to stock up on really sweet loot. They probably have plenty of pens and can buy their own booze. But maybe if you can get them a "xyz school" something, that's kinda cool and personalized. Basically if you don't know them very well, a heartfelt note explaining how much you appreciate their help during this trying process would mean a lot to them - knowing their hard work was valued basically. And if you do know them well... then you shouldn't need a thread like this to answer the question.
But yeah... if I get into a NY school I'll take my one recommender out to dinner during a visit out there. Otherwise I'll take him out to dinner during a recreational visit out there. The other guy is busier than all get out and lives in Canada so... I'll just have to see.