1979 “Skate America” at The Netropolitan Museum of Figure Skating Pins
Although often referred to as the “first” Skate America, the 1979 Flaming Leaves International, held in Lake Placid, New York, in the fall of that year would best be referred to as the predecessor of Skate America. It was only after the success of the Flaming Leaves event that the U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA, or today called U.S. Figure Skating) pursued holding an annual senior-level, invitational event in the U.S. called Skate America.1
The Flaming Leaves event served an important purpose in the run-up to the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid by satisfying the requirement of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that a new facility built for an Olympic Games must first be tested in competition. And so it went. The 1979 Flaming Leaves International is also sometimes referred to as “Norton Skate” for the event sponsor, the Norton Company, a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of abrasive products.
With that bit of history lesson, on to the pin that commemorated this important pre-Olympic competition—and a handsome figure skating pin it is. On a gold-color base metal, a fiery orange fills the central flames that burn brightly behind a figure skating pair, in forward crossovers. The flames not only suggest the colorful fall leaves but the Olympic flame that would be ignited just a few months later. A rich blue fills the skaters and encircles the outer area of the pin, with lettering for the event name, location, and date reversed to the base metal color: “Norton Skate Lake Placid, N.Y. Sept. 20–23, 1979.” The Norton logo appears to the left of the skaters.
On a gold-color base metal, a fiery orange color fills the central flames that burn brightly behind a figure skating pair in blue.
Measuring approximately 1-1/4″ in diameter (3.2 cm), the high-quality pin exhibits a late-1970s design aesthetic, particularly the rounded, stylized font used. According to well-informed sources, a limited quantity of 250 were produced and were quickly snapped up at the event, leaving some collectors disappointed. For a number of years, the pin was hotly pursued by collectors and routinely fetched $50 to $75 when one came up for sale. Today, although the pin remains a rarity, it has little value and generally can be purchased at auction sites for $10, and it very often never even sells. Another victim of the decline of figure skating pin collecting as a hobby—something that was once an enjoyable and important social aspect of the sport.
Enjoy this week’s figure skating pins blog: Olympic Warm-Up. 1979.
(This is an edited edition of a blog titled “Flaming Leaves. 1979.” originally published June 20, 2020.)
1In 1981, the first competition named Skate America was held, also in Lake Placid, and is now part of the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating.
1979 Norton Skate “Flaming Leaves” Pin Gallery
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