Introducing The Catcher

By Barry Homrighaus RM1548

A few weeks back, I won a lot of three hobo nickels in the Kagin’s auction. One of the three is pictured below on the left. Once I had the coins in hand, I began my usual process of looking for matches, which included reviewing all of the OHNS Auction catalogs, from 1995 to the present.

To my surprise and delight, I found not only that this coin was listed as Lot #6 in OHNS Auction #2 (August, 1995), but that the description of the coin called out a three-coin match, as follows: "This coin was first seen in 1982 and is believed to have been chisel and knife carved by the same artist as two similar carvings on page 43 in the Hobo 5¢ book."

The two coins noted, from page 43 of Del Romines's Hobo Nickels, are pictured middle (#2) and right (#3) below. After review by the current OHNS nicknaming committee, it was agreed that whoever discovered that these three coins were a match twenty-five years ago—possibly Del Romines himself—was right.

Since the process of naming carvers didn't start until a few months after the 1995 auction, this match was never memorialized, and this carver went nameless until now.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of these coins is the lack of a front brim on the hobo's hat. But after some consideration, it occurred to me that these hats aren’t missing a brim, but rather these gentlemen are wearing a billed cap, backward. While this is a pretty common site today, it wasn't popularized until the 1990’s when baseball superstar Ken Griffey, Jr. started the trend. Back in 1915, the only guys who wore a backward baseball cap were the catchers, who turned the bill around so it wouldn't interfere with their mask. Further evidence that this image could be of a baseball player comes from Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, which notes of baseball uniforms of the teens, "Many more uniforms featured a short, stand-up collar, similar to that of a Nehru jacket."

Based on the backward cap and stand-up collar on this gentleman, I suggest that he is no hobo, but rather an appropriately attired baseball player of the era. More specifically, he’s "The Catcher".

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

The carving characteristics for "The Catcher" are as follows:

  1. Knife and chisel carved with rough fields and minimal smoothing of the hat crown.
  2. Largest feather modified to create the backward brim of a cap.
  3. Brim and band inscribed with horizontal lines on at least two coins.
  4. Liberty and date remain.
  5. Rough, incuse ears are tilted back 45 degrees on all three coins.
  6. Short, scratchy hair, beard and mustache.
  7. Profiles modified on all three coins.