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Learn all about the fascinating world of figure skating history with Skate Guard Blog. Explore a treasure trove of articles on the history of figure skating, highlighting Olympic Medallists, World and National Champions and dazzling competitions, shows and tours. Written by former skater and judge Ryan Stevens, Skate Guard Blog also offers intriguing insights into the evolution of the sport over the decades. Delve into Stevens' five books for even more riveting stories and information about the history of everyone's favourite winter Olympic sport.

You've Met Your Match

When we think of collectible skating history, our first thoughts are probably souvenir programs, posters, art, autographed pictures and videos. However, as we explored in a previous blog on philately, there's a lot of skating memorabilia out there in forms we may not commonly think of. Phillumeny - the hobby of collecting matchbook covers - may seem a rather obscure or unique specialization. However, considering how socially acceptable smoking was in much of the world until the last two decades or so, it's quite unsurprising that skating was prominently featured on matchbook covers and cigarette cards for many, many years.

Perhaps the most popular examples of skating-themed matchbooks emerged in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, at the height of the great rebirth of American hotel ice shows, which had started before Prohibition. Both The Hotel New Yorker in New York City and Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago advertised their suppertime skating soirĂ©es on matchbooks which would have been provided free of charge to their patrons. 

A 'pin-up' style illustration of a figure skater also appeared on matchbooks given to soldiers at the Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, Maine during World War II. Overseas in Japan, the Harima Match Company produced a matchbook featuring a bespectacled male skater zooming along while smoking a pipe. One Finnish matchbook depicted an elegantly dressed female skater performing a beautiful spiral. The Cleveland Skating Club, which hosted the 1940 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, even got in the matchbook game during the early 40s. 

At times, cigarette cards - specialized trade cards used for advertising and to stiffen cigarette packaging - featured figure skating as well. One of the most unique examples of this was a series of twenty-five cards depicting 'Winter Sports' produced by British cigarette manufacturers Lambert and Butler issued in 1914. One card featured a woman performing a toe spin, three featured pairs skaters and a fifth showed a young man enjoying a fine afternoon of skate sailing on a frozen river. One of Lambert and Butler's rivals, Mitchell's Cigarettes, also issued a card that depicted two men skating in the English Style in old-style skates with curlicue toes and a couple skating, with the woman warming her hands in a muff. Ogden's Tobacco Company even issued a cigarette card with an illustration of Sonja Henie.

If you're looking to add a few new pieces of unique skating memorabilia to your collection, you just may find some inexpensive gems online or in your local antique store.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" and pre-ordering "Sequins, Scandals & Salchows: Figure Skating in the 1980s", which will be released this fall where books are sold: