Introducing Gentleman Jim
By Marc Banks RM538, Arturo DelFavero RM552
One night while browsing eBay, I stumbled across a neatly executed classic Hobo Nickel (1) being offered as a "Buy It Now". What stood out immediately was the use of raised metal to create the hair, moustache and beard. After taking a very quick second glance and not too much thought, I purchased the carving. I emailed a picture to my friend Arturo (DelFavero). He in turn sent me a photo of a carving (2) from his collection that was without a doubt the work of the same carver. Arturo had acquired his carving in 2017 from a dealer at Joe LeBlanc's Michigan show. We both thought we had seen similar carvings. Several other works with the same raised metal technique and similar in appearance were located. Example 3 seemed to match, but ear had a different shape. We decided to continue looking a more definitive example or one that would clearly link Example 3 to Examples 1 and 2. Recently the "Missing Link" carving (4) was located by chance when a collector sent several photos to Arturo to examine. While it definitely matched carving 3, the shape of the ear was done in the same manner as those on Examples 1 and 2. The fastidious nature (i.e., neatly trimmed hair, moustaches and beards) and the dignified characters portrayed on these carvings suggested a gentleman. Art and I being longtime boxing fans decided to nickname this unknown carver after an early heavyweight champion (1892-1897) James Corbett, dubbed "Gentleman Jim". Gentleman Jim would have been a familiar name to early hobo nickel carvers.
The carving characteristics for "Gentleman Jim" are as follows:
- Derby hats with crescent-shaped brims pointed ends, accent lines on crown and hat band on Examples 1 & 2. The bows on the hat bands have a knot in the center, accent lines on Examples 3 & 4.
- Nicely shaped engraved ears with 2 to 3 cuts to create inner detailing.
- Neatly done head and facial hair created by raising beads of metal with a point graver.
- Hairline at the back of head runs downward in an inverted rounded triangle pattern.
- Sideburns run neatly down face to beard, leaving a patch of skin next to the ear that leads to neck.
- LIBERTY left intact with dates removed on 2 specimens.
- Minor modifications to the profile.
- Two examples have only a shirt collars and jacket lapels, two examples shirt collar only.
- Some of the coin's surface appears smoothed prior to engraving detail (most notably the ear).
- Nice smooth work in the field.
- All amendments achieved by use of engraving techniques.