Trash or Treasure: Vintage skating trophy prize collectible

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News
Alan Cavrell with his  1943 Swanson roller skating trophy at the DuMochelles Art Galleries in Detroit

Fans of designers such as Ralph Lauren know that vintage trophies – whether they be from horse shows, tennis matches or other sporting events -- are popular collectibles.

Alan Cavrell recently wrote to the column asking for help with a trophy that is more detailed than most. “Attached are pictures of a skating trophy that is 75 years old,” he wrote of his family heirloom, asking for its value and more information. The 27-inch trophy weighs 7.8 pounds and has a hollow base as well as a solid metal statuette, he went on to explain, adding, “We don't know if it is silver plate or solid silver. Neither the base nor the statuette are magnetic.”

The arresting image features a woman figure with wings holding what appears to be a flame. The inscription on the base reads, "Swanson Trophy; 1943 Skate Queen; Won by Emily R Zinn, at Empire Rollerdrome, Brooklyn, N.Y.".

An internet search revealed more information about the contest from an article published in the “The Billboard,” an entertainment publication, dated April 2, 1949. “With prizes worth approximately $1,000, the 1949 (9th annual) Skate Queen contest promises to be the biggest and best ever held. Purpose of the event,” it continued, “is to select an ideal girl roller skater and glorify her for a year.”

Cavrell explained that the trophy was won by Zinn in 1943, probably on leave or just prior to her WWII duty as a nurse and that the Empire Rollerdrome was built across the street from Ebbets Field in Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY. The Swanson family owned a flooring business and bought the parking lot across from the Field and built the Rollerdrome at that site in 1941. 

Zinn later gave the trophy to his mom, Cavrell explained.  “My mom told me that she and Emily Zinn were friends from nursing.  Mrs. Zinn gave the trophy to my mom in friendship, not sure exactly when, and my mom gave it to me to take care of (I was 9 or 10 so about 1966-1967).  Maybe at the time she wanted to give me something of value for safe keeping to teach me responsibility, I don’t know.  I have taken care of it ever since.”

Jim Flannery of DuMouchelles, who appraised the piece, said the fact that the trophy had no markings made it harder to give him definitive information but that he believed it to be silverplate and not sterling. Because of that, he said he wouldn’t spent any great amount to restore it, despite the fact that it had some damage, including flames that appear a bit bent.

“The value lies in the design, not the materials,” he told Cavrell. “These types of trophies are popular and sought after.”

“It would be worth more if it was sterling, but it’s still very attractive,” he added, estimating the value at $400 to $600.

Cavrell is hanging on to it for now but is still considering its long-term future. “It needs to be in a place where its tiny slice of history and American culture is genuinely appreciated,” he said.

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.



About This Item:

Item: Skating Trophy

Owned by: Alan Cavrell

Appraised by: Jim Flannery, DuMouchelles

Estimated Value: $400 to $600 at auction