Hobo nickels — broadly described as examples of the Indian Head 5-cent bit with other designs carved on one or both sides following the”Buffalo nickel” has abandoned the U.S. Mint — are a very favorite and specialized area having an eager collector foundation. Heritage will offer selections the Chris Dempsey Collection at a June 18 session of its U.S. Coins market in Dallas.
Heritage describes the offering as”simply magnificent” and the consignment as”among the greatest Hobo nickel sets ever formed.” Additional selections from the Dempsey Collection will highlight forthcoming earnings.
The catalogue’s introduction adds,”The prevalence of these rare and visually intriguing nickels keeps growing by leaps and bounds,” anticipating that the collection will attract collectors of the genre, and possibly introduce new folks into this region.
The collection’s”masterwork” is”what’s possibly the best-known and most important example of the famed carver known as”Bo.” It is carved on both sides of a 1935-dated host coin.
Heritage’s cataloger adds,”This 1939-carved DICER nickel is unique among all Bo’s documented nickels, and it is far more ambitious than many of his other well-known works.”
The obverse features a normal transformation of James Earle Fraser’s Native American right into a”hobo” having a lovely beard, carved ear, re-shaped nose, and hat with a raised brim which Heritage indicates”foreshadows some of Bo’s later carvings, with fully dressed, dished areas and a carefully executed portrait replete with big regions of pushed and raised metal”
The reverse is superbly described by John Sculley who composed that the layout is”a raucous celebration of life on the rails — three carefree hoboes have jumped a sexy shot (DICER is’hobo-speak’ to get a quick freight train). Two domed-hat gents are perched on the roof for a bird’s-eye view of the scenery, even though a third party hobo lounges inside the vehicle, its door wide open to buff his blossom in the breeze. A circle with the angled slash is symbolic of a’secure route,’ unimpeded by the railroad bulls looking to toss them from the train (or worse).”
Heritage anticipates this piece by Bo will set a new record in its upcoming auction appearance.
Carved on the opposite
The Dempsey Collection is particularly strong in examples that are carved on the reverse, transforming Fraser’s bison into many different distinct forms. A 1930 host nickel has a ditch undo by Bo, constituting a traveler with a walking stick. Heritage calls it one of Bo’s best reverse carvings, including,”The nickel includes exceptionally high relief, with numerous areas of raised metal and eliminated alloy, in addition to beautifully dressed fields for outstanding eye appeal.”
The word TIRED is carved where FIVE CENTS would normally be,”although we do not know if Bo was worn out from dividing the intricate details found throughout the hobo’s face and apparel, or if the hobo himself was simply tuckered out by a long trip,” Sculley explains. Delightful accents like a checkered handkerchief in his pocket, patches in his coat and a lumpy, whale-like knapsack increase the allure.
The latter portion of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is obscured, with the expression UNITED left undamaged, open to different possible interpretations. Joyce Ann Romines within her publication on Hobo nickels, indicates that the use of the word meant that hobos have been”combined” in their lifestyle.
The bison has been turned into a menagerie of animals in the hands of Bo and his peers, with a donkey and mule being most common, but occasional transformations to a turtle or horse’s mind, as well as elephant, can be found.
Heritage writes,”The idea of a mule came out of his childhood home, while a circus might have inspired the elephant.”
The offered case is carved to a 1937-S host coin, also comes with an early Del Romines OHNS certificate, #R-001 dated Feb. 1, 1994, and it was recently offered at Heritage’s June 2019 purchase of the Jack Royse Collection of Hobo Nickels, where it sold for $1,680.
The catalogue for your Chris Dempsey Collection can be found online at https://coins.ha.com/. Bidding in the auction is now underway and shuts June 18.