Introducing Sponge Beard

By Ralph Winter HLM37, Stephen Alpert LM10, Chris Dempsey LM64

I purchased the first nickel pictured below in November of 2004 in an eBay auction. Almost ten years later, Chris Dempsey was looking at some of the hobo nickels in my collection when he pointed out the second example below which appeared to be by the same carver. I purchased this second example at a coin show in October of 2012. Chris then said he had a third match (3rd example). Just a day after seeing Chris, Steve Alpert emailed a match that he had after looking through some photos of my hobo nickel collection. I decided to nickname this classic artist "Sponge Beard" because of the subjects all have finely punched beards which look like the pores on a sponge.

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

The carving characteristics for "Sponge Beard" are as follows:

  1. Finely sponge like punched beards, hair and moustache where present.
  2. The hat brim is defined by a single line.
  3. Hat varies slightly on each example but hatband consists of a series of closely punched vertical lines.
  4. There may be a notch at the top of the nose.
  5. Simple collar defined by two horizontal lines.
  6. "C" punch used to form a well-positioned ear.
  7. Fields dressed but a little rough.
  8. LIBERTY has been removed on most specimens, but dates are still visible on all but one example.
  9. Legible dates are early dated nickels (1913 and 1919).