Until 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic brought much of the world to a halt, the World Figure Skating Championships had been canceled only once for a reason other than a World War. That year was 1961 following the loss of the entire U.S. figure skating team and many others in a plane crash in Brussels, Belgium, while enroute to the World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Montreal, Canada, would have hosted the 2020 World Figure Skating Championships, the city’s first since 1932, but like Prague in 1961, an unexpected event has forever left an asterisk on the World Championships record books.
For many decades, collectors believed that no pins existed from the 1961 World Championships. As the story goes, upon learning that the International Skating Union (ISU) had voted to cancel the event out of respect for those lost in the crash, the organizing committee ordered all the pins to be destroyed. Even into the late 1980s, the only 1961 Worlds pin known to exist was in the collection of F. Ritter Shumway, past president (1961–1964) of the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA, or today called U.S. Figure Skating) and president of the association at the time of the crash. But beginning in the mid-1990s, pins from the 1961 Worlds began to surface out of Europe, primarily from Czechoslovakia, thanks to the world being linked through the internet, which allowed collectors and sports memorabilia dealers to easily connect and do business. With the appearance of the pins, the folklore was shattered.
Fast forward to 2001 when The Broadmoor, the famed hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and host of many U.S. and World Championships at its old World Arena, reported finding in its vault the “long-lost pin” from the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships. The writer of the online article incorrectly—although likely unknowingly—suggested that the pin, which had been given to former Broadmoor president and chairman William Thayer Tutt, was the only one known to exist. By that time, however, The Curator of The Netropolitan knew of perhaps a dozen or more of the pin that had surfaced, having purchased half of that dozen to trade and sell. And going back to 1999, The Curator had already donated a duplicate of the 1961 pin to the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame.
Shown in the gallery below are the main event pin and three special-issue versions, all likely produced in limited number and intended only for those individuals who would have had a named role in the event: “Referee” (“Rozhodčí”), Team Leader (“Vedení”), and Press (“Tisk”). At the end of the gallery is the main pin, shown enlarged to help clarify detail. The gold-color metal and enamel pin features a central, multi-color design of interconnected skate blades and tracings. Opposing angled and rounded corners create variation and interest. Along the top of the pin, in Czech, is “Mistrovství Světa v Krasobruslení” (World Figure Skating Championships) while at the bottom is the location and date, also in Czech, “Praha 22. – 26. Února 1961” (Prague, 22-26 February 1961). The colors of the skate blade design are the same as those used in the Olympic rings to represent the universality of sport: blue, yellow, black, green, and red. It perhaps can be theorized that the same five colors were chosen for the Prague pin to represent the universality of figure skating.
Because of its rarity, the 1961 Worlds pin can be regarded as the “holy grail” of figure skating pin collecting. If you have this pin in your collection, count yourself among only a fortunate few who do.