Introducing Walter Vaulter

By Marc Banks RM538, Arturo DelFavero RM552

At this year's OHNS Auction 25 in Ft. Lauderdale, I was the happy winner of Lot 38, a nice above average hobo nickel (1). The carving depicted the traditional bearded hobo wearing a hat with a rounded crown. With the help of OHNS archivist Art DelFavero two more carvings that are unmistakably the work of the same unknown carver were located. The workmanship and eye appeal exhibited on each of the carvings suggests they are the work of a skilled carver with an artistic aptitude. The previous owner, Ken Lowther, related that the carving was found by a friend in a bank counting room in the early 70's and that it subsequently spent the next 43 years in a bank vault and safe. Ken, Art (present owner of #2), Fred Avan (present owner of #3) and I toyed with a number of nicknames for this carver based on the years the carving was hidden away and by the geography it covered from owner to owner and traveling cross country from quality examiner to quality examiner. The possible names included "Vaulter", "Solitary Man", "The Inmate", "Flappy" (after the somewhat large ears), "Curly Beard" and "Sojourner," but the one we chose was one my wife Joyce suggested that had a nice ring, "Walter Vaulter". I'm glad Walter Vaulter ended up in Connecticut.

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

The carving characteristics for "Walter Vaulter" are as follows:

  1. A well finished hat with a high crown, wide hat band with a large three-section bow, and a long pointed brim. The hat is textured and outlined with bold cut marks.
  2. A nicely carved ear is position up over the brim of the hat.
  3. Neatly punched hair, moustache and a full beard. The mouth is obscured by the moustache on example 1, the mouth visible on the other two examples.
  4. The profile has been altered with skillful alterations to the nose including a notch at the bridge on the three examples. The nostril has been enhanced.
  5. A collar displays some texturing and has a boldly outlined lapel (also accented) adorns all three examples. On examples 2 and 3 there is also the outline of a shirt collar open at the front.
  6. Inverted pawnbroker balls are carved behind the hat on example 2.
  7. The fields have been cleanly dressed with texturing. Remnants of LIBERTY show.
  8. All specimens are carved on 1913 nickels.