Introducing Willie the Wedge

By Marc Banks RM538

Several years ago I acquired an average, but interesting hobo nickel on eBay depicting a bearded man wearing the standard domed hat with a long brim on a 1915 Buffalo Nickel. This unknown carver used a minimal number of knife cuts to fashion the hair, moustache and beard. The ear was formed with deeply cut C-shaped outline with the inside detail made with a single triangular/wedge-shaped punch. The collar was composed of cut lines that formed a wedge that came to a point in the front of the neck. Two more examples, very clearly by the same carver, have appeared since. Both examples are on 1913 host nickels. These carvings sold on eBay (Example 2) and in the recent Kagin Auction (Example 3). The carver appears to have come up with a design that he repeated very consistently. I suspect more examples will be found. I have nicknamed this carver “Willie the Wedge” after the wedge-shaped ear detail and collars used on these three examples.

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The carving characteristics for "Willie the Wedge" are as follows:

  1. All examples exhibit a C-shaped ear with wedge-shaped punch mark used for ear detail.
  2. A simple wedge-shaped collar comes to a point in front of the neck on all examples.
  3. The hats are long-brimmed with medium to shallow crowns. The front brim points to “B” in LIBERTY.
  4. The hair, light moustache and beard are fashioned with cut lines done with a knife or similar tool.
  5. There is slight to moderate modification of the nose.
  6. The letters “ERTY” of LIBERTY are visible.
  7. These examples are carved on early date Buffalo Nickels (1913 and 1915).
  8. The field behind the head is dressed to varying degrees; remnants of host coin feathers and braid are visible on Example 2.