By Arturo DelFavero RM552
Back in January of 2009, BoTales editor Ralph Winter called me and said that he had just been to a coin show in Livonia, Michigan. He also told me that he had just purchased some hobos including a nickel made by nicknamed artist "Sam Francisco." Feeling like being a scavenger, I made my way to the same show to pick up any scraps that he may have left for any other collectors.
Once at the show, I perused the floor and eventually made my way to a dealer that Ralph had told me about. Looking through his items, I came across a "Howard Hughes" and also a somewhat average low carving that my gut screamed for me to buy, even though the price was $80.00 At this point I moved on to another dealer and ended up purchasing one more classic before going home.
During my travel back to Novi, I kept thinking about my average low nickel, knowing that I had seen this artist before. This feeling foretold what I would be doing for the rest of the afternoon and possibly the evening, searching for a match or better yet, matches. I tell you the truth; it didn't take more than a half hour to find the second specimen in Auction catalogue #11 as lot #8, which sold for $50.00. Less than an hour later I found the third; it belongs to none other than Steve Alpert, and is pictured on page #19 in the lower left corner of the Hobo Nickel Guidebook which he authored. His cost was $20.00 bringing the average price to $50.00. Verne Walrafen came up with the name "The Chiseler" upon seeing the scans and photos for processing. "Some people carve careers others chisel."
The carving characteristics for "The Chiseler" are listed as follows:
1) All features are punched and chiseled using only two chisels.
2) All have hair, ear, and beard made in the same manner.
3) Collar, shoulder motifs, and hat are very comparable.
4) Little or no amendments to profile.
5) Very smooth head (except for eye, nose & cheek) and fields with all legends removed (one has readable date of 1916).
6) Limited but charming "Real Hobo Nickel" design traits.