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Two-Sided Carving by Bo Hughes The Incomparable 'DICER' - Upcoming auction at Heritage

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Spectacular Two-Sided Carving by Bo Hughes
The Incomparable 'DICER'

Legendary and Unique Hobo Nickel, Carved Both Sides. This is the best-known and arguably the finest carving by Bo Hughes, although it precedes what is thought to be some of Bo's best artistry by more than 10 years. His exquisite Cameo carvings of the early 1950s aside, this 1939-carved DICER nickel is unique among all of Bo's documented nickels, and it is far more ambitious than most of his other well-known works.

While the obverse foreshadows some of Bo's later carvings, with fully dressed, dished fields and a carefully executed portrait replete with large areas of pushed and raised metal, it is the reverse that surprises. It is a raucous celebration of life on the rails -- three carefree hoboes have hopped a hot shot (DICER is "hobo-speak" for a fast freight train). Two domed-hat gents are perched on the roof for a bird's-eye view of the scenery, while a third hobo lounges within the car, its door wide open to fan his beard in the breeze. A circle with an angled slash is symbolic of a "safe route," unimpeded by the railroad bulls looking to toss them from the train (or worse).

Bert Wiegand's influence is seen on the obverse -- his penchant for an obsessively neat beard and hair work, as well as inscribed messaging on the neck are typical Bert characteristics, which says "DARWIN / D.C. / 1939." The raised-metal hat brim and three-dimensional ear suggest Bo's embellishments. The reverse seems to be entirely Bo's inspiration and carving. The obverse is smooth and lustrous, with pleasing nickel-gray color accented by reddish-gold and lilac colors. The reverse displays plentiful luster throughout the lilac-gray devices for exceptional eye appeal.

This nickel was held privately for 50 years before appearing in the January, 2013 OHNS Auction #23. There, it achieved a world-record price for a hobo nickel. That record has since been broken at Heritage's January, 2021 FUN Signature auction, where the BERT-39 carving of his lady friend Elizabeth realized $31,200. We anticipate this two-sided Bo nickel -- the unique and renowned DICER -- will eclipse that record showing in this sale, only its second auction appearance in nearly 60 years.