Introducing Derby Dan

By Marc Banks RM538

One of the nicest original hobo nickels I acquired in 2012 was of a man with a long beard wearing a derby (left below). The carving has a brownish toning with a hint of green verdigris. These colors along with the artist's use of deep punch marks for the hair and beard gives the carving depth and creates the appearance of brush strokes on an oil painting. I purchased the carving at a coin show for $200. Shortly thereafter, I emailed a picture of the coin to OHNS Archivist Arturo "Cinco" DelFavero and as I remember he located one carving by the same unknown carver while we talked on the phone. It must have taken him at least a half-hour to find the third example. The first match (center) was Lot 8142 in the 2007 Heritage Auction #422. It sold for a hammer price of $220. The third match (right) appeared on the OHNS web site in 2009. It was one of the coins offered in the 2009 Pre Long Beach Auction. It sold for $460. I would grade these carvings as above average in quality. I am calling the carver of these three nickels "Derby Dan" after the well carved derbies he put on these characters.

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The carving characteristics for "Derby Dan" are listed as follows:

  1. A derby with a raised, three-dimensional brim;
  2. The hat's crown has some texturing;
  3. The hair, moustache and full-beard are created with alternating punch marks of different sizes creating a wavy look, some hair shows on the forehead below the brim.
  4. All three carvings have an eyebrow (finely punched on first two examples- unclear from the photo of the Long Beach example).
  5. All examples have a tiny punched ear with a raised edge that sits somewhat low on the head.
  6. The nose and nostril are slightly altered on two examples, the eye is unaltered.
  7. The collar has a v-shaped flap open to the back.
  8. A cross-checked pattern is present on the shoulders of the first two examples (no dates present on these three specimens).
  9. The fields are cleanly dressed with LIBERTY removed.