The Summer 2016 issue of Bo Tales, the official publication of the Original Hobo Nickel Society has a nice article by Carol
Bastable about Belgian coin artist Paul Holbrecht. Editor Ralph Winter kindly forwarded a copy so I could publish this excerpt here.
In this issue we travel across the ocean to meet with Paul Holbrecht in Belgium. He has been carving since 2008 and started with homemade
gravers. In 2013 he upgraded to professional tools and a microscope (AmScope 10X-30X) and soon followed up with his first hobo nickel sale on eBay.
He also uses magnification in the form of an optivisor to draw his designs on nickels and to sharpen his tools. So far he estimates having made
roughly sixty or more carvings.
Holbrecht is one of those people that was perhaps born an artist. Since early childhood he was interested in drawing with either pencil
or ink. Holbrecht also had a penchant for taking things apart to see how they worked and taught himself how to repair things. He believed
he could learn anything just by trying it out and a little experimentation. Holbrecht taught himself the basics in drawing, painting, and
other handicrafts. As a teenager he earned extra money by painting signs and designing flyers, invitations, and T-shirts. By the age of 23
or 24 he made art a career when he became a tattoo artist. Unlike the other tattoo artists in his area, Holbrecht made his own designs and
did not depend on the generic transfer designs that others used.
Originally Holbrecht's real dream was to become a stone sculptor. After a personal tragedy, the death of his brother, he reexamined his
life and his heart just was not in the tattoo business so he went for his dream. He found that actually making a living at stone sculpture
was tough. So when he isn’t sculpting, he finds himself spending much time restoring his old farmhouse. Already being a sculptor, it was no
surprise that he became interested in coin carving. He took a year of engraving classes at night which helped prepare him to pursue this
new art form. Classes were old school with push gravers. Today he still uses push gravers and homemade tools but he has added a GRS
GraverMax G8 for texturing and finish work.
So where did Holbrecht first encounter this unique art that is so rooted in American numismatic history from the depression? There are
plenty of people right here in the U.S. that have not even heard of hobo nickels. He first encountered the art on the internet of course.
While visiting “The Engraver's Café” and the “Engraving Forum” he was inspired and impressed by engravings by Steve Lindsay and Sam Alfano.
Then with a little more reading and searching and he found hobo nickels by Ron Landis, Paolo Curcio, and Shaun Hughes. He said he was
Holbrecht was struck by the uniqueness of these miniature carvings, having come from carving larger sculptures in stone for ten years.
The small size can pose a challenge and some adjustments in approach. Holbrecht said that the microscope was key to success. When he
purchased his microscope he made what he terms his “first serious attempt”. Besides his night engraving class and entering some searches on
the internet, he mostly learned how to make hobo nickels on his own. Hobo nickels are a bit different from learning basic engraving as they
are sculptural and often deeper bas relief carvings. The concept however was familiar to him on some levels from his stone sculpting
background. He said the thing he learned online that best helped him was how to sharpen his gravers.
Here are some examples of Paul's work. -Editor
For more information on the Original Hobo Nickel Society, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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