Introducing Spike

By Marc Banks RM538

In 2012 I was high bidder on eBay ($128) on one of many renditions of Prussian soldiers carved on Indian/Buffalo Nickels (left). These carvings are believed to be "Trench Art" probably carved circa World War I. The carving depicts a soldier with a large upturned moustache wearing a decorative parade helmet with a spike at the top. The carvings have similarly decorative collars on their uniforms. I looked through old auction catalogs and the OHNS web site and found a matching carving (middle) clearly done by the same unknown artist that sold for a hammer price of $37.50 in the 2008 FUN Show Auction. OHNS Archivist Art DelFavero searched the OHNS archives and came up with a third match (right). I would grade the quality of these carvings Above Average Low to Above Average...

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

  1. Parade helmets with a spike at the top with braided design made by wriggle cut lines.
  2. Two specimens have cut-outs around the ear while the third has a more gradual arch.
  3. There is a decorative braid above the front brim.
  4. Minor alteration to the nose, possibly as a result of dressing the field.
  5. The ear is more or less oval shaped with one or two cuts in the center for detail.
  6. The hair is a series of cut lines, a liner tool appears to have been used on one example.
  7. A series of cut lines form an upturned or handle bar moustache.
  8. There is a decorative collar above the shoulder done with a liner tool, punching and/or the use of a wriggle cut.
  9. A liner tool has been used to create parallel lines in the fields and/or across the uniform (done in a crisscross pattern in places).
  10. Fields are cleanly dressed, the date and LIBERTY have been removed.