Introducing Kaiser Bill

By Stephen Alpert HLM11, Art Del Favero HLM552, Ralph Winter HLM37

In the winter 2020 BoTales issue we introduced "Project Kaiser." Steve Alpert said in part, "Hi all! I propose that OHNS begins a research project on Kaiser Hobo nickels. First, we try to find and illustrate as many different classic old Kaiser hobo nickels as possible. Each of you (3 OHNS Board members) have already sent pictures of the Kaiser hobo nickels in your collections. I will send you pictures later today of the ones in my collection.

Next we attempt finding additional other Kaiser hobo nickel pictures from our archives, past BoTales issues, past OHNS auctions, auction house auctions, eBay-sold hobo nickel illustrations by Ralph in past BoTales issues (including Three's a Match), and in the collections of OHNS members. We can put an introductory article in the next issue of BoTales requesting help for this project from all present and past OHNS officers, and all current OHNS regular members.

Once we gather together all the old Kaiser hobo nickel pictures (say we find 100) they should be illustrated (randomly) and individually numbered, in an issue of BoTales. Then we ask all OHNS members/BoTales readers, to study the pictures and let us know which ones they believe are matches."

We did just that in the spring 2021 BoTales issue where we pictured what we thought were thirteen different hatless Kaiser hobo nickels. When we published that issue, Steve observed that the #1 and #2 nickels pictured below were definitely matches. This was noted in the summer 2021 BoTales issue.

Art Del Favero then found a third match in the OHNS archives. There are some slight differences of token 3 compared to 1 and 2: smaller ear; un-straightened nose profile; mustache upsweep at a greater (90 degree) angle; no buttons; has a neck (below chin and at back of hair). But it has the same hair part as #2. And at first glance, all three look so much alike. Thus we think they may very well be by the same artist. These nickels are all a depiction of Kaiser Wilhelm. In English Wilhelm is William and Bill is usually short for William. So we came up with the nickname "Kaiser Bill."

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

The diagnostic characteristics for identifying hobo nickels made by “Kaiser Bill” are:

  1. A helmet-less Kaiser portrayal.
  2. Hair is lightly engraved, with little detail; rounded back of head.
  3. Horizontal part in hair near top of head (strongest on 2 and 3).
  4. Sharply upturned mustache.
  5. Small ear with internal detail.
  6. Chin-line enhanced (on 1 and 2).
  7. Collar slopes downward toward chin.
  8. Buttons on and below front of collar (on 1 and 2).
  9. Liberty removed; also date removed on 1 and 2.
  10. Field smoothened.