Introducing Roller Derby

By Marc Banks RM538 and Art DelFavero RM552

In December (2020) I spotted a hobo nickel (1) depicting a bearded man wearing a domed hat with a nice three-dimensional brim in an online auction. The auction photo was somewhat out of focus and it was difficult to make out all the detail in the carving. It occurred to me that it resembled a carving (2) I had won in the OHNS Auction in 2014. As I waited for the auction to end, I asked Arturo if he thought they looked like the work of the same carver. He agreed. I was lucky and won the auction and was pleasantly surprised when the coin arrived. There was much more detail than could be seen in the original photo. It was clearly the work of a talented carver and the same one who had created the other one I already owned. I was surprised again when Art quickly located a third work (3) with nearly all the diagnostic markers of the other two including the: three-dimensional hat; carved hair, moustache and beard; modifications to the profile and enhancement of the mouth. Shortly after that he found photos of a cast copy probably made from the #3 hobo nickel. Photos of the three carvings were sent to the OHNS naming committee for their opinions and they also agreed they were the works of the same unknown artist. The name for this new nicknamed carver was the hard part. I felt the hat was the key feature and began searching for an appropriate name. The hat reminded me of a hat known as a "Crusher", but I was looking for more. My wife Joyce noticed that the hat brim was rolled up all the way around the hat and suggested "The Roller". I ran these names by Arturo, and he said how about "Roller Derby". Perfect! The search for a name was done.

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Cast Copy

The carving characteristics for "Roller Derby" are listed as follows:

  1. All three carvings have domed hats with 3-dimensional, outlined hat brims folded up in the center, the ends of the brim and hat brims are nearly identical on each example.
  2. The height of the hat crowns vary.
  3. Examples 1 and 2 have accented crowns and brims and vertical lines across the hat band.
  4. The shirt collars and jacket lapels on Examples 2 and 3 are the same. No collar on Example 1.
  5. All three examples have carved hair, moustaches and beards. The beard extends just beyond the chin on these carvings.
  6. Examples 1 and 3 have an eyebrow.
  7. Similar, nicely detailed and positioned ears.
  8. The Indian’s profile has been altered by modifications to the nose.
  9. Enhancements to the mouth.
  10. The date is removed on Examples 1& 2 (1913 Type 1). Example 3 is on a 1916.
  11. Well-dressed fields with varying degrees of LIBERTY visible.