Introducing Bertram 'Bert' Wiegand

By Stephen P. 'BigOne' Alpert LM10

Known as "Bert," Bertram Wiegand was Bo's friend and mentor, who taught Bo how to make hobo nickels in the late 1910's. The early works of Bert and Bo are very similar in style and are often difficult to tell apart. Bert signed many of his hobo nickels by removing the LI and Y of LIBERTY, which left "BERT." Many of Bert's works are very finely detailed, and they are highly prized by collectors, as they are very rare (compared to the many known pieces by Bo).

Bert was born circa 1890, began carving hobo nickels in 1913, spent some time in prison in the 1930's (where he continued making hobo nickels for the guards), and was last seen in the late 1940's, selling hobo nickels at flea markets. Other details of Bert's life are chronicled by Del Romines in his two hobo nickel books.

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The Traveler

Chris Dempsey LM64

The following carvings were originally attributed to the nicknamed carver "Traveler" and are now known to have been carved by "Bert." As such, "Traveler" has been removed from the "Old Carvers" section.

Bert Prisoner

Marc Banks, RM-538

When I first saw a signed Bert in Heritage's June 2019 Auction #1296 (Lot 4432), it immediately reminded me of the OHNS nicknamed "Bert Prisoner" nickels that have appeared from time to time. The most notable of these is pictured in Delma Romines' Hobo Nickels (1982) and again on page 54 in The Hobo Nickel (1996) by Joyce Ann Romines. In the latter book, it is stated that it is "..believed to have been carved by "Bert" prior to entering a chain gang in Georgia." This coin was Lot 17 in OHNS Auction 16 in 2008 and was at that time listed as probably the work of "Bert."

The "Bert Prisoner" carvings exhibit the overall diagnostic markers of Wiegand's other works which now include what were thought to be the works of an unknown carver nicknamed "Traveler" for many years. The key diagnostics of the Wiegand carvings that are also found on the "Bert Prisoner" nickels include: modifications to the nose creating an aquiline shape; wavy cuts used to create the hair, sideburns and beard; and an outlined, oval ear. There are also similarities in the double collars of both works. From the workmanship on all of these pieces, it is apparent that they are the work of a talented carver. Another signed "Bert" sharing the typical "Bert" diagnostics has "GA" and "1932" engraved across the collar and shoulder tying it to the time that Wiegand was supposed to have served his prison sentence in Georgia. Presently this is the best candidate for one of the carvings he did while in prison. It is interesting that the Heritage Lot 4432 has "33" engraved after the signature "Bert" undoubtedly indicating the year 1933, According to the 1996 book Wiegand was released from prison in September of that year having served a year or slightly more.

I was convinced that the Heritage carving was the bridge between the recognized "Bert" carvings and the "Prisoner Nickels." I sent the photos below to OHNS Archivist and authenticator Art DelFavero, former authenticators Steve Alpert, Chris Dempsey and Bo Tales editor Ralph Winter for their opinions. All agreed that all of these carvings were the work of the same man, "Bert Wiegand." It seems that there should be many more "Bert" carvings than have appeared. The "Bert Prisoner" and "Traveler" carvings now account for some of these. The photos of "Bert Prisoner" nickels will now appear on the OHNS website as a subtype of Bertram Wiegand's carvings on the OHNS website.