Who’s a Copycat?

When people challenge me about the tiles, it’s almost always about the identification of copycats. The claim is usually that newer tiles aren’t the work of the original tiler. The WHAT section of this site traces the development of style over time, but doesn’t explicitly lay out the case for a single tiler for the 700+ data points on the WHERE section of this site.

That’s not to say there aren’t copycats. For example this is a fairly obvious copycat:



But this one is also a copycat:


But this isn’t:



Here they are side by side:



How can I tell?

The original is a tile appeared in the 1990’s. The copycat is from 2010. The copycat mimics the design of the original, but TTT hadn’t created one even remotely close to that style in more than 10 years. While TTT does sometimes repeat much older styles, he’s never done it in a one-off like this one.

In addition, the copycat was placed differently in the context of the intersection than all other tiles of that size. Out of hundreds, this would be the only outlier in both design and placement.

It also appeared near to, and in the same run as several House of Hades tiles. House of Hades does occasionally create straight copycats with the original message. Considering all this together, it’s safe to say that tile is a copycat made by the person responsible for House of Hades. Even so, it looked so authentic we used it for the key promotional shot for Resurrect Dead.



Here’s another example:



And what about this one:



The first tile is a copycat, and the one directly above is authentic. How can I say that? Same as the earlier example. Looking at when and where they were placed, and what other tiles appeared at roughly the same time, it’s much easier to say with confidence which one is authentic. The copycat here is another House of Hades replica.



What about this one?

It’s real. With that said, if I just saw an image online, and had no other context, it would be very hard to tell.

Yeah, but…

So that gets to the question, why do I think that beautiful tile above is authentic, and that this one:



And this one are authentic too:



Here’s the most concise argument I can make.

I won’t get into why, but for many years, TTT has spent a lot of time in the Atlantic City area. If you take a look a the map, you’ll see tiles lining the highways and roads between Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore. If you click through to the map and look at the variety of tiles up and down Route 42, you’ll see he’s been active there for many years. The earliest known, original style tiles placed on a highway were reported in a 2004 issue of Weird NJ magazine. Nearly every tile style and variety has appeared on the roads between Philly and the Atlantic Ocean since then.



In 2013, after a hiatus of 2 years, dozens of new tiles appeared in Baltimore, Wilmington, DE and New York. Almost all were in the same rough style:



That same year I drove down to the Jersey shore on a hunch. I found a few fresh tiles, in the same style, but with a DIFFERENT MESSAGE; some of them still covered in tar paper:



So who is Mason?

The connection is unimportant, but Mason reportedly knows the family of TTT. He doesn’t know TTT directly, but there is a direct, significant connection between himself and the family.

In short – in 2013 – tiles attacking a person with recent contact with TTT, in a place where TTT spends a lot of time began to appear. Simultaneous to this, tiles in the same hand, the same style, and made of the same materials, (but with the original message) appeared up and down the Mid-Atlantic. It’s safe to say that the person putting Toynbee tiles in Baltimore in the summer of 2013, was the same person putting nearly identical “Meals on Wheels” tiles at the Jersey shore in the summer of 2013.

In addition, the pattern of placement within intersections themselves is consistent with TTT. The overall direction of style is consistent with incremental changes made over many years. It’s extremely unlikely that these are copycats.

Why so crude?

People who see the 2013 – 2016 run of tiles often point to tiles from the 1990’s and make the argument that they can’t possibly be made by the same person. My argument here is that those beautiful 1990’s runs produced 10 – 12 tiles a year. The last set that included even rudimentary mosaic elements, borders, and side texts was a run of 8 Philadelphia tiles in 2007. Since 2013, well over 100 tiles have been reported in New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and points in-between. There are probably dozens more that either never set, or have never been reported. The goal in the past few years has been quantity, not quality. 

It looks like at this stage of his career TTT doesn’t have the time, patience or materials to produce 90’s style tiles. Instead he’s been producing a large amount of cruder tiles for his annual runs.

Other Evidence

Another strong argument for a single tiler are highway tiles. In 2004, tiles with the message split across 2 or more smaller tiles started appearing on highways near Philadelphia. We think TTT did this so that the message would be legible is smaller bites a few hundred yards apart. These tiles were first reported in 2004:


Split tile on I-476. Photo by Josh Weigner, 2004.


These tiles have appeared many times since then:


Split tile in Williamstown, NJ. Photo by A. Brown, 2014.


Here’s one that appeared simultaneous to the rest of the New York tiles of 2013:


Split tile in New York City. Photo by Steve Weinik, 2014.


Here’s one that appeared at the same time as other new, Wilmington, DE tiles since 2013:


Wilmington, DE split tile. Photo by Sarah Cordivano, 2016.


Here’s a split tile with the alternate “Meals on Wheels” message attacking Mason M.


Meals on Wheels split tile near Atlantic City. Photo by Steve Weinik, 2015.


So to recap. Split highway tiles have been appearing since 2004. Split highway tiles still appear. Some of them are “Meals on Wheels” tiles, which instead of carrying the traditional Toynbee Idea message, attack a man named Mason. Mason has direct significant contact with the family of TTT. To top it off, these split tiles have appeared in the same runs as other post 2013 tiles in New York and Wilmington, DE and the Jersey shore. Taken together, it’s a certainty that the person making highway tiles, post-2013 Toynbee tiles, and all “Meals on Wheels” tiles is the same person. It’s nearly as certain that the person is the original tiler.

Still not convinced? Make your case here or in the comments below.


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