Introducing Tom Thumb

By Marc Banks RM538

Several years ago I won a classic carving (1) on eBay done on a 1928-D buffalo nickel of a bearded man with a long-brimmed hat. The skilled, unknown artist of this hobo nickel had made extensive use of a liner tool creating the beard and accenting the hat and jacket. The arched lines on the crown of the hat created a thumb print pattern. About a year later OHNS web master Chris Dempsey acquired a 1916 nickel (2) carved in the same manner that shared a number of the same details including the distinctive thumb print on the hat. There was no mistaking that this was the work of the same carver. Chris sold me the carving in 2015 and I began searching for another example. At this year's (2016) FUN Show OHNS archivist Art DelFavero found what he thought might be the third example (3), also done on a 1916 nickel, looking through the collection of OHNS member Corbitt Chandler. Fortunately, I had brought example number 2 with me and we were able to confirm that Corbitt's carving was also the work of the same carver. I had already been calling the carver of the original find "Tom Thumb" after the telltale thumb print, now the nickname was official.

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

The carving characteristics for "Tom Thumb" are as follows:

  1. A long-brimmed hat (three-dimensional on #1) with tall crown and a decorative band (vertical lines) and a large bow. A liner tool was used to create a series of fine lines resembling a thumb print on the crown.
  2. Carved ears vary in the amount of inner detail, but are properly positioned on the head.
  3. Slight modification to profile on 3rd coin only.
  4. Eyebrows vary from a series of fine lines to a couple of short cut marks.
  5. Closely cropped moustache and beard created with parallel lines (liner tool).
  6. Hair composed of carved lines or with done with a liner tool.
  7. Fancy shirt collar above jacket collar and lapel.
  8. Example #1 has a jeweled stick pin at the collar.
  9. Jacket accented with parallel lines or cross-hatching.
  10. Fields dressed, stippled or punched with LIBERTY left intact.