Introducing Low Brow

By Marc Banks RM538, Arturo DelFavero RM552, Don Priebe RM770

I remember sitting next to OHNS Member Don Priebe during the 2007 Heritage auction of the Hobo Nickel collections of the late Norm Talbert and Troy Wiseman. Don had come to the auction specifically to acquire an original carving from Talbert’s collection and he won a beauty. An unknown carver had skillfully transformed the Indian’s head into a smaller depiction of a bearded hobo wearing a derby with a low crown and a long three-dimensional brim. Below a narrow neck was a long collar that reached to the rim of the nickel. The talented carver combined engraving, punching and peening techniques in creating this little masterpiece. Meticulously dressed fields created a partial cameo appearance.

Four years later a matching carving was acquired by OHNS Archivist Arturo DelFavero as a Buy It Now on eBay. It wasn’t until this January (2019) that I (Marc) was fortunate to win a third example by this artist in an auction with a single hobo nickel lot. We are nicknaming this unknown carver “Low Brow”; the forehead has been diminished on all three examples by the artist’s reduction of the size of the Indian’s head and by the way the hat sits low on the head.

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

The Carving Characteristics for "Low Brow" are listed as follows:

  1. The derby has a shallow crown, narrow band and long, three-dimensional brim sits low on the forehead. On two examples the crown has been finished with peening.
  2. Ears have punched inner detail resembling an 8, a raised outline and are partially hidden by the hat.
  3. Skillfully punched hair, moustache and beard. The hairline comes to a point on the back of the neck.
  4. A punched eye ball.
  5. The profile (nose) varies from a bend at the bridge to nearly straight.
  6. An oversized collar/lapel that extends to the rim of the coin making the neck which was already reduced look even narrower.
  7. The fields are cleanly dressed (peened on two examples) and recessed creating a cameo appearance. LIBERTY has been removed on all three examples.
  8. Dates range from 1916-1925 with the last digit lying within the bottom edge of the collar.
  9. It is our opinion that these carvings are Superior or very close to Superior in quality