Introducing Karashaw

By Stephen Alpert LM10

The artist I am here nicknaming "Karashaw" apparently was a soldier of the 31st Infantry, sent by President Woodrow Wilson from the Philippines to Vladivostok, Siberia in 1918 as part of World War One activities to combat the Bolsheviks (Russia's "Red" Revolutionaries) and protect the eastern end of the Trans-Siberia Railway. He probably carved the three hobo nickels shown here while in Siberia. As two of the coins are signed "H.C.A." in the date area, I believe those are the initials of the artist.

The history behind these historic wartime hobo nickels has been related twice before in BoTales: in the article I wrote on the discovery specimen (at left, below) [A Siberian 3-Sided Nickel, summer 2004, Vol. 13 #2]; and the article by Verne Walrafen in the spring 2012 issue (Vol. 21, Issue 1, page 23) which reported the second-known specimen (center; now owned by Candace Kagin). The third specimen (on right), which lacks "Karashaw" on the obverse, is owned by Chris Dempsey. My specimen has neatly engraved on the edge HDQTS. CO. 31 INF. A.E.F. VLADIVOSTOK, SIBERIA. The other two have plain edges.

All three specimens are two-sided carvings, with BOLSHEVIKI, 10 KOPECKS, and 1919 engraved around a depiction of Lt. Custer Fribley's mule (he and the mule were briefly captured by the Bolsheviks).

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

The carving characteristics for "Karashaw" are listed as follows:

  1. "Karashaw" (= Good Comrade) engraved on the obverse (on 2 of the coins).
  2. Neatly-bearded man, wearing a derby hat with no hat band.
  3. Brim of the hat is pointed and wraps around at each end.
  4. Nicely-carved detailed ear; top of ear overlaps the brim.
  5. Simple collar with a flap or fold at the front and a radiant jewel.
  6. Date area smoothed, with H.C.A. initials on two of the nickels.
  8. Buffalo altered to a mule; fields nicely dressed; all legends removed.
  9. BOLSHEVIKI engraved around the top.
  10. Date 1919 engraved under mule's head, or below the ground.
  11. 10 KOPECKS engraved under mule's head or below the ground.
  12. EDGE
  13. One specimen has the military unit inscription.