Introducing I Liner

By Marc Banks RM538 and Art DelFavero RM552

This past spring (2020) I bid on a small auction lot of modern and classic hobo nickel carvings on eBay. Among these was a partial cameo carving of a bearded man wearing a domed hat (1 below). In addition to a punched beard, this character had an engraved ear, an altered profile, a distinctive cut line above an added eyebrow, and a pointed jacket lapel sitting low on the neck.

I ended up winning the lot and sent pictures to my good friend and OHNS Archivist Arturo DelFavero. He immediately said he had seen a match to this carving. In late July, I got a call from Arturo. He had been going through archive photos that day and had found not one but three unmistakable matches (examples 2-4) to the carving I now own. I also had former OHNS QD Examiner Steve Alpert and BoTales Editor Ralph Winter examine the photos of the four carvings. They also agreed that the carvings were the work of the same artist. Another partial cameo carving (5) uncovered during Arturo’s search may also be by the same carver. It differs somewhat, but has the same overall characteristics. On this example the cut line is below the eyebrow.

I have nicknamed the carver of these nickels “I Liner” after the distinctive line above the eyebrow on the first four examples and below the eyebrow on Example 5.

Click to view enlargment. Click to view enlargment. Click to view enlargment. Click to view enlargment. Click to view enlargment.

The carving characteristics for "I Liner" are listed as follows:

  1. An eyebrow paired with a single cut line. Slight modification to the eye may be present.
  2. All examples are partial cameos carvings with noticeably recessed fields. Fields are cleanly dressed.
  3. A domed hat with a narrow brim. Examples 1-3 have a hat band with decorative vertical lines positioned back from the ear. The band has some fine horizontal lines.
  4. Engraved ears are narrow and vary in size. No ear is visible on Example 5.
  5. Hair, mustache, beard are punched.
  6. The neck is uncovered between the bottom of the beard and the jacket collar. Fine horizontal lines are present on Examples 1 and 2.
  7. The point of the lapel is spur-like and points downward about mid-shoulder on Examples 1-4.
  8. LIBERTY is visible on all examples to date.
  9. The date is not visible