Introducing Gentleman Jim

By Marc Banks RM538, Arturo DelFavero RM552

Click to view enlargment. One night while browsing eBay, I stumbled across a neatly executed classic Hobo Nickel (1) being offered as a "Buy It Now". What stood out immediately was the use of raised metal to create the hair, moustache and beard. After taking a very quick second glance and not too much thought, I purchased the carving. I emailed a picture to my friend Arturo (DelFavero). He in turn sent me a photo of a carving (2) from his collection that was without a doubt the work of the same carver. Arturo had acquired his carving in 2017 from a dealer at Joe LeBlanc's Michigan show. We both thought we had seen similar carvings. Several other works with the same raised metal technique and similar in appearance were located. Example 3 seemed to match, but ear had a different shape. We decided to continue looking a more definitive example or one that would clearly link Example 3 to Examples 1 and 2. Recently the "Missing Link" carving (4) was located by chance when a collector sent several photos to Arturo to examine. While it definitely matched carving 3, the shape of the ear was done in the same manner as those on Examples 1 and 2. The fastidious nature (i.e., neatly trimmed hair, moustaches and beards) and the dignified characters portrayed on these carvings suggested a gentleman. Art and I being longtime boxing fans decided to nickname this unknown carver after an early heavyweight champion (1892-1897) James Corbett, dubbed "Gentleman Jim". Gentleman Jim would have been a familiar name to early hobo nickel carvers.

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1 2 3 4

The carving characteristics for "Gentleman Jim" are as follows:

  1. Derby hats with crescent-shaped brims pointed ends, accent lines on crown and hat band on Examples 1 & 2. The bows on the hat bands have a knot in the center, accent lines on Examples 3 & 4.
  2. Nicely shaped engraved ears with 2 to 3 cuts to create inner detailing.
  3. Neatly done head and facial hair created by raising beads of metal with a point graver.
  4. Hairline at the back of head runs downward in an inverted rounded triangle pattern.
  5. Sideburns run neatly down face to beard, leaving a patch of skin next to the ear that leads to neck.
  6. LIBERTY left intact with dates removed on 2 specimens.
  7. Minor modifications to the profile.
  8. Two examples have only a shirt collars and jacket lapels, two examples shirt collar only.
  9. Some of the coin's surface appears smoothed prior to engraving detail (most notably the ear).
  10. Nice smooth work in the field.
  11. All amendments achieved by use of engraving techniques.