Introducing Puzzler

By Marc Banks RM538 and Art DelFavero RM552

One of my favorite hobo nickels is a partial cameo carving of a man wearing a derby with a crescent shaped raised-metal brim and a distinctive notch for a nostril that I won 2008 on eBay for $233 (left photo). In 2011, a match for my coin appeared on eBay (middle photo). OHNS member Chris Dempsey (LM64) was high bidder at $394. This specimen was also a partial cameo. The two hobo nickels were unmistakenly done by the same carver. I would grade the these two carvings as close to Superior if not Superior in quality. It took the keen eyes of OHNS archivist Art DelFavero to find a third match (right photo) that was illustrated in Steve Alpert's Guide Book to Hobo Nickels (page 91) that sold for $100 in the 1999 OHNS Auction (Lot 44). This latter carving although displaying rougher workmanship (Below Average quality) shared a number of key characteristics to the other two including the tell tale notched nostril. It appears to be an earlier work by this carver. I have named the unknown carver of these three Hobo Nickels "Puzzler" after the notch between the nose and mouth that resembles the shape of a jigsaw puzzle piece.

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

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

  1. A notch or indentation for the nostril.
  2. The mouth is slightly open and down-turned.
  3. The ear has a opening in the center with one or two outter rings.
  4. The first two carvings have frown lines on the forehead.
  5. A derby with a pointed brim. The first two specimens have both a raised-metal brim and a plain band. The final specimen lacks these finer details.
  6. Hair is lightly carved. The outline of the Indian's hairline is incorporated into the carving. The beards on the first two carvings (no beard on the third carving) are also lightly carved and/or punched. The upper lip is clean shaven.
  7. The first two carvings have a slightly raised collar that widens towards the front.