The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 22, May 29, 2016, Article 15


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. -Editor

Paul Holbrecht 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 hooked instantly.

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

Pilot Pirate coin carving by Paul Holbrecht

Owl1 coin carving by Paul Holbrecht Owl2 coin carving by Paul Holbrecht

GoodCigar coin carving by Paul Holbrecht SeeTheDoctor coin carving by Paul Holbrecht

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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