Hungarian stamp issued in conjunction with the 1963 European Championships
Licking a stamp and putting it on an envelope... in the electronic world we live in today, to many it almost seems like a foreign concept. However, without the postal service figure skating never would have survived. Just think of all of the letters written by skaters all around the world; the competitions and shows that were organized and federations founded upon the written correspondence of those who have loved the sport.
Central African Republic stamp depicting John Curry at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games
An interesting footnote from skating history is the fact that many nations over the years have paid homage to skating by creating special postage stamp art issues. The first country ever to issue a skating stamp was Hungary back in 1925 and since then Canada, the United States, Germany, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland, Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Norway, Poland, Czechsolovakia, Monaco and Austria have been among those countries who have followed suit.
Even some highly unlikely nations have issued ice skating stamps, among them the Dominican Republic and the Republic Of Burundi. The first Olympic (speed) skating stamp was issued by Germany in conjunction with the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. A figure skater didn't appear on an Olympic stamp until 1956.
Burundi stamp depicting a skater at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games
The heyday of skating stamps was really the fifties and sixties. Dr. Sidney Soanes, a skating judge from Leaside, Ontario, was one of the most enthusiastic stamp collectors in the skating community during this period. He regularly penned articles for "Skating" magazine detailing his latest finds. Kenneth Macdonald Beaumont, a 1920 Olympian who served as the President of the National Skating Association in the fifties and sixties, was also the founding President of the Great Britain Philatelic Society.
Eastern European countries and Russia were the 'leaders' in producing skating stamps. In 1955, the small mountainous Republic of San Marino produced one and a half million stamps of skaters, skiiers and bobsledders just in time for the 1956 Winter Olympic Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo - nearly one hundred and thirty times the country's population at the time. However, in his 1975 book "Topical Stamp Collecting", M.W. Martin noted that "the world's leader in skating stamps is Russia, who entered the 'skating stamps club' early in 1935, and has since issued them on seventeen different occasions."
Finnish and Japanese stamps depicting skaters at the 1977 European and World Championships
Curiously, skating's connection to stamp collecting actually predated the first skating stamp. Back in July of 1877, esteemed philatelist, author and (ironically) forgery expert William Dudley Atlee was convicted in Birmingham of embezzling money from the Moseley Skating Rink Company in England, a rink making outfit of which he was the secretary. He served twelve months in jail for his offence. As a result, in April 1879 at a meeting at the Trafalgar Hotel, the auditor of the company, Charles Timothy Starkey, proposed the dissolution and liquidation of the company's assets.
Austrian stamp commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the Wiener Eislaufverein
As in virtually every other artistic medium, stamps have preserved and represented many important moments in skating history. From Barbara Ann Scott's historic first gold medal win by a North American woman at the Olympics in St. Moritz in 1948 to the one hundredth anniversary of the Wiener Eislaufverein to a stamp issued by Slovenská Pošta in conjunction with the 2016 European Figure Skating Championships in Bratislava, 'there's a stamp for that'. So all of you figure skating history buffs out there looking for a new hobby... philately may just be it!
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