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Introducing "Zoot Suit"
By Marc Banks, RM 538


Recently (August 2014), I was fortunate to purchase a skillfully carved hobo nickel (left photo) on eBay that was a match to a hobo nickel (middle) I had purchased in early 2013 as a Buy It Now on eBay. Another carving (right) clearly by the same unknown carver sold in another eBay auction later in 2013. All three carvings depict a bearded man wearing a fedora with a shallow crown and a jacket with vertical stripes below the lapel, and an ear composed of double engraved lines and a small round circle at the center. I am nicknaming the carver of these nickels "Zoot Suit" after the iconic jacket with bold stripes often worn with a fedora.

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The carving characteristics for "Zoot Suit" are as follows:

1. Fedoras with moderate to long brims pointed at front and back. Fine accent lines may be present.
2. An engraved ear that overlaps the hat brim. Ear detail consists of a 2nd cut line and a small round circle at the center.
3. The hair, moustache and beard were created with a series of short strokes with a liner tool creating a wavy look.
4. The beard varies from close cropped to a long point extending to the rim of the nickel.
5. Modifications to the eye appears on two examples. An eyebrow also done with liner tool appears on all three examples.
6. All examples display alterations to the profile (nose and nostril). An accent line is placed behind the nostril. The mouth has also been enhanced with a downward turn.
7. A shirt collar above the lapel has a triangular fold at the front. Lapel has a V-shaped indentation. Shoulder is decorated with vertical stripes that outline the date (difficult to see on the example on the far right which is slightly out of focus).
8. The field behind and above the head are smoothly dressed. The fields on the example on the left are recessed. LIBERTY is left intact.
9. The left and middle carvings were done on 1915 & 1914 nickels respectively. The date of the third cannot be discerned.