Introducing Monkey Man

By Marc Banks RM538

As I previewed the auction lots of OHNS Auction # 18 (2010), Lot 38 (1) caught my eye. It was a monkey-like character with punched hair and beard covering much the head and neck and wearing a domed hat. An unknown artist employed a number of different carving techniques in creating this carving. Brown toning and darkened accents added to the carvings eye appeal. I ended up winning the lot for $633 including the buyer's fee. While the carving shared some similarities to some "Braidy" carvings, it does not appear to be done by the same carver. I searched, but did not come up with a match until this past January when one appeared in the OHNS Auction # 21 (Lot 125, 2). This carving also has a resemblance to "Braidy" carvings. The coin sold for $412.50. OHNS Archivist Arturo "Cinco" DelFavero found the third match (3) among a group of coins that appeared on the OHNS site in 2008 under "Classic Carvings going to a San Diego Coin Show" by Owen Covert. The coin was later sold for an undisclosed price. What appears to be a fourth example (4) is owned by OHNS Life Member Chris Dempsey. I would grade carvings from Above Average to Above Average High. I am nicknaming this talented carver "Monkey Man," the name by which Cinco and I referred to the carving by for three years until the matches were found.

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The carving characteristics for "Monkey Man" are listed as follows:

  1. A nicely carved domed hat with a narrow, pointed brim and a plain or decorated hat band.
  2. The crown of the hat is peened.
  3. The hair, moustache and beard is densely punched using a small circular punch.
  4. The punching continues down the braid and/or neck to the collar.
  5. Specimens have a raised or oval ear with a punched center.
  6. The eye is punched and may have a crease at the corner and some examples have a punched eyebrow.
  7. The profile is drastically altered, usually with a deep notch at the bridge of the nose and an enlarged nostril.
  8. There is a double collar created with deep cuts, the collar curves forward down the front of the shoulder or is straight on a downward angle.
  9. The fields are cleanly dressed with LIBERTY left intact.
  10. Carvings are done on early date nickels.