Introducing Mason City


By Fred “Guido” Avan RM908, Tony Lewis RM1201 and Don Wolfe RM981

While looking at Hobo Nickels on eBay, I noticed that the nickel carver Tony Lewis had listed a classic carving on a 1915 host nickel. I put it in my eBay watch list with a small bid in on it. As luck would have it, Don Wolfe won it, the first carving shown here, for $105.

In the eBay listing, Tony mentioned that he would be listing more classic carvings later that looked like they were done by the same carver. I contacted him and asked if I could get pictures of the other carvings that were going up for auction.

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

He informed me that he had purchased one carved on a 1936 host nickel and that the other two were going to be kept by Lisa Warren, the owner of the nickels. She inherited them after her father passed away in July of 2011. She told Tony that her father had lived in Mason City, Iowa until the late 50's. Mason City is located 30 miles east of Britt where the hobos hold their convention every year.

Tony sent a picture of his specimen and it was definitely carved by the same carver. After a brief negotiation, he agreed to sell me the second carving shown here for $80.

After receiving the carving, I contacted Tony again and mentioned the “Three's A Match” column published in BoTales by OHNS. He said he had tried matching them with our published nicknamed carvers, not even thinking about “Three's A Match.”

I asked if he would mention this to his friend Lisa, which he did and he replied that she was very excited. Lisa provided the photos of the third and fourth carvings shown here. Tony did manage to get Lisa to sell him the third carving done on a 1929-S host nickel. Lisa has since sold the fourth carving, done on a 1935 host nickel, to another collector. There was some disagreement whether “Mason City” was a classic carver or might be modern. All four examples were reviewed by five different authenticators at the 2012 FUN show and the majority deemed “Mason City” to be a classic hobo carver.

The Carving Characteristics for “Mason City” are listed as follows:

  1. Total punched and hammered hair, beard and mustache.
  2. Oval shaped ear with very deep depressed center.
  3. Beard and mustache punched to form a frown.
  4. Straight thick hat brim that gives the appearance of being rolled.
  5. Hat band with fancy centered bow.
  6. Field roughly dressed with date left on, but LIBERTY may or may not be left on.
  7. Distinctive collar that has three bands (horizontal lines) that blend into the shoulder.
  8. Profile unaltered.