Introducing William Kopman
By Chris Dempsey LM64, Stephen Alpert LM10
In 1996, Steve Alpert purchased a high above average hobo nickel to add to his collection, but what made this coin different was that this coin was purchased directly from the descendant of William Kopman, the original carver, who carved the coin in the 1920's or 1930's. The coin Steve purchased was a nice quality hobo nickel, with a standard subject and design. What set this coin apart from others was the anti semitic nature of the "Jew-Nited States" the carver so expertly engraved in the legend above the subject. So well done, in fact, that William Kopman's son, Ray, assumed "United States" was the original lettering on the obverse, thinking that his father had altered "Uni" to say "Jew."
Ray Kopman was kind enough to share his father's biographical information with Steve Alpert for Steve's article in the Summer of 2002 BoTales, which gives some insight about how some of these coins were likely made during the period.
William Kopman was born on April 9, 1889 and died April 26, 1972. In 1905, he answered a newspaper advertisement for a copy boy and errand boy for the old Cleveland Supply Co., and engraving firm. The company later moved to Rochester, N.Y. William made commercial art work metal engravings for grain and flour sacks, from about 1906 to 1950. He was also a photo engraver. Most of his artwork was used by the Pillsbury Flour Co. He also worked for the Akron Bag Co. in Akron, OH, Memphis, TN, and the Rochester Bag Co. in Rochester, N.Y. He retired in 1956 from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland Press of Cleveland, OH.
In February of 2015, Chris Dempsey acquired the second known coin from a dealer from the Cleveland, OH area, the same area Mr. Kopman had lived in for many years. Until this coin appeared, the Kopman family had assumed their coin was the only one he ever carved.