1979 Norton Skate Pin: Flaming Leaves.

Last Updated on November 29, 2023 by Netropolitan Museum

Figure skating event was commemorated with a colorful and popular lapel pin

Before the world came to Lake Placid, New York, for the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, the newly built ice arena for the Games hosted the official test event, Norton Skate (named for the event sponsor, the Norton Company, a manufacturer of abrasives). Held in September 1979, the event is sometimes referred to as “Flaming Leaves International” since it took place during the concurrent Flaming Leaves Festival. According to reports from the time and in subsequent years, the 1979 Norton Skate pin was made in limited quantity (some say 250) and sold out on the first day of the event. In his 1996 book, “Skating in America,” which recounts the 75-year history of the U.S. Figure Skating Association,1 even the noted curmudgeon Benjamin T. Wright mentioned the pin’s popularity.

Let’s indulge in a brief history lesson about Norton Skate. Although the event is often referred to as the first Skate America, in reality it was the predecessor to Skate America. Only after the unexpected success of what was to be a one-time event did the U.S. Figure Skating Association pursue holding a senior-level invitational in the U.S. annually. The term “Skate America” would not enter the figure skating vernacular until 1981 when the first Skate America was held, also in Lake Placid. Today, Skate America is part of the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating.

Gallery: 1979 Norton Skate Pin

Now, on to the pin that commemorated this important pre-Olympic competition. On a gold-color base metal, a fiery orange color fills the central flames that burn brightly behind a figure skating pair, in forward crossovers, in blue. The flames also suggest the colorful fall leaves of Upstate New York or the Olympic flame that would be ignited just a few months later. The complementary blue color encircles the pin and highlights the event name, location, and date: “Norton Skate Lake Placid, N.Y. Sept. 20–23, 1979.” The Norton logo appears to the upper left of the skaters.

Copyright-protected image. Do not download or use without express written consent of the copyright holder.

Approximately 1-1/4″ diameter (3.2 cm diameter)

$15 to $20, depending on condition

The high-quality pin reflects the design direction of the late-1970s, particularly the rounded, stylized typestyle that is used. The Norton Skate pin is difficult to find today, nearly 45 years after the event was contested. Enjoy this week’s figure skating pins blog: 1979 Norton Skate Pin: Flaming Leaves.

This blog was originally pubished at The Netropolitan Museum of Figure Skating Pins on June 20, 2020, and has been updated with new and expanded information.

1Note that the U.S. Figure Skating Association today is called U.S. Figure Skating.

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