Introducing The Fobber


By Stephen Alpert LM10

Click to view enlargment.

The only specimens I know made by this unknown artist that I am here nicknaming “The Fobber” are the three hobo nickels he carved and assembled into the watch fob illustrated here. The clip at top could be attached to a shirt pocket button hole, or a belt loop. And a pocket watch probably was once attached somehow to the loop at the bottom of the lowest hobo nickel. Since this artist created the three very similar hobo nickels, and made a watch fob with them, I am nicknaming him “The Fobber.”

Maybe this was the only design of a hobo nickel he could create. For if he could carve a variety of designs, why use the same design three times on this fob, when he could show off his diversity with three different-looking hobo nickels?

“The Fobber” made heavy use of a liner tool. He engraved fine parallel lines over the entire hat, the entire field, and the entire shoulder and neck area. He used the same parallel lines for the hair around the ear. The diagnostic features of a hobo nickel made by “The Fobber” are:

  1. The extensive use of fine parallel lines as discussed above.
  2. A hat with a very thick and broadly curved brim. The ends of the brim may be lobe-like.
  3. A bow on the hat band.
  4. A small, faint, carved C-shaped ear, which may consist of concentric C's.
  5. A rough beard formed by using a textured punch.
  6. No mustache.
  7. Profile is unaltered.
  8. The field above the hat (which was initially lined) is covered with heavier zig-zag wriggle cuts.
  9. A checkered coat (cut over the fine parallel lines) obliterates the date area.
  10. Liberty is obliterated.
  11. The hobo nickel is part of a watch fob. Specimens if removed from a fob should have indications on the edge where loops were once attached.

The top two coins on this watch fob are on raised-ground (1913) P-mint nickels; the bottom coin is on a P-mint Type-II nickel. All the coins are XF so “The Fobber” apparently was an early hobo nickel artist. This fob is Lot #85 in the 2009 OHNS Auction #17 (see page 18). This same hobo nickel watch fob also appeared as Lot #11 in the 2001 OHNS auction #9. The hammer price in that auction was $300.