Introducing Beady Beard

By Marc Banks RM538 and Chris Dempsey LM64

In 2012, while browsing through eBay auction lots, I noticed a classic hobo nickel (left) by an unknown artist that from the picture appeared to be carved on a clipped planchet. The carving was the traditional subject, a bearded man wearing a simple domed hat. The hair, moustache, beard and eyebrow were created with neatly placed, overlapping punch marks. A well detailed ear, modified eye and collar added to the eye appeal of the carving. I placed a bid and was happy to win the auction for $80. I showed the nickel to a couple of dealers familiar with error coins and their opinion was that the planchet had been cut after the coin was minted, perhaps by the carver to hold it in a fixture while it was being carved.

In 2013 another carving (center) clearly by the same carver was won on eBay by OHNS member Chris Dempsey for $262. When I spoke to Chris he revealed that he had located the third match (right) while looking through Heritage's January 2007 auction lots. It sold for $322 (Lot 8168). We have decided to name this unknown carver "Beady Beard" after the beading tool he used on the beard of all three specimens.

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

The carving characteristics for "Beady Beard" are as follows:

  1. A domed hat which is outlined and has a single cut line for the brim.
  2. The hat band has a bow composed of three rectangles and has vertical lines on either side of the bow.
  3. The crown of the hat is peened.
  4. The hair, moustache, beard and eyebrow are done with overlapping punches with a beading tool.
  5. The eye is modified with a V-shaped outline and a punched eye.
  6. A well detailed ear that sits slightly low on the head.
  7. The profile is unaltered.
  8. Remnants of the Indian's braid are visible on all three specimens.
  9. The fields are cleanly dressed and LIBERTY is left intact.
  10. All three specimens are carved on nickels from the 1910s.