Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by Al Kowsky, Sep 2, 2019.

  1. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Hobo nickels are coins that have had their designs modified with files, engraving, chasing, and carving tools. The most popular coins to work with are Buffalo or Indian Head nickels, minted from 1913-1938. They were easy enough to work with hand tools and the Indian head provided subject matter that was ripe with possibilities. The most common theme was the transformation of the Indian head into a hobo wearing a derby-like hat. I bought the coin pictured below from a friend who had a coin shop in Leroy, NY about 8 years ago. The coin is skillfully worked and appears to be from the early classic period.

    For comparison an unblemished 1913 nickel MS68, courtesy of PCGS
    1913 Buffalo Nickel, Type I, PCGS MS68.jpg

    Hobo nickels vary in quality from very fine to crude and amateurish. Many soldiers returning from World War I were unable to find work and lived a hobo's life along with many down-and-outers who hitched rides on railroad trains, going from city to city looking for work. Some hobos were skilled enough to work the Indian head nickels during stops and sell them to tourists or locals for a few bucks or a meal, hence the label "Hobo Nickels" was coined. This phenomenon of working coins didn't just spring up with Buffalo nickels, it began earlier in the 19th century with other coins. A favorite coin to work over was the American trade dollar like the one pictured below.

    Potty Dollar 1877.jpg
    These were called "Potty Dollars" and depicted a nude Miss Liberty taking a dump on a chamber pot. This coin has "NO FREE TRADE" engraved above the date which helps date it to the late 1880s. Republicans issued tariffs during the Civil War to protect American industrial interests (sound familiar) and they stayed in place until Democrat Grover Cleveland decided to run for president. Cleveland wanted to reduce tariffs to make imports cheaper (sound familiar). After a tooth and nail battle Cleveland managed to reduce tariffs from 47% to 40%, and this coin is a memento of that era.

    For comparison pictured below is an unblemished 1877 trade dollar

    Getting back to hobo nickels, the Original Hobo Nickel Society (OHNS) was formed in 1992 and has provided a wealth of information to collectors of these coins. Delma (Del) K. Romines published a series of articles on hobo nickels for Coin World magazine in the 1980s and published a well researched book Hobo Nickels in 1982. These publications stirred interest in the hobby and many modern artists started making hobo nickels again. The most sought after hobo nickels from the classic period were made by Bertram "Bert" Wiegand, and his protege George Washington "Bo" Hughes. Very few of their coins are signed, but the ones that can be attributed to them bring high prices and signed examples bring very high prices. The best of the modern artists have no equal and their coins bring very high prices. Heritage auctions liquidated two important collections of hobo nickels this year; 29 coins from the Jack Royse collection and 1,100 coins from the Don Haley collection. Pictured below are five of the coins that Heritage sold along with prices realized. Photos courtesy of Heritage.

    Bert Wiegand, $9.600.00.jpg
    An early example by Bert Wiegand. Notice how it was signed by removing letters from LIBERTY. $9,600.00

    Bert 33, Chain Gang Nickel.jpg
    This is the most sought after type made by Bert when he was imprisoned in Georgia and had to work on the chain gang in 1933. $13,200.00

    Bert, 1947, $4,800.00.jpg This is a later example by Bert in 1947, after he injured his hand. $4,800.00

    Bo, Self Portrait, 1952, $7,500.00.jpg
    This is a self portrait by Bo Hughes, 1952. $7,500.00

    Bo Hughes, $8,400.00.jpg
    Bo Hughes, 1923, donkey with a shanty in the background. $8,400.00

    Willie Nelson.jpg
    Willie Nelson by Aleksey Saburov, 2014. Visit his website to see nickels made with astonishing realism.

    If any CT member has hobo nickels feel free to post them ;).

    On line pamphlet from the OHNS
    Coin World article by Steve Roach, 12-13-2018
    Hobo NIckels by Dekma K. Romines, Copyright 1982
    Heritage Auction Archives
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
    john65999, Brina, Cucumbor and 20 others like this.
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  3. Heavymetal

    Heavymetal Well-Known Member

    I want that Willie!
    Brina, JMGallego and Paddy54 like this.
  4. rooman9

    rooman9 Lovin Shiny Things

    Not hobo nickels per say. But the same line. I collect trench art from the world wars. I mostly end up with Aussie stuff. My favourite are the ones with the US 5th Air Force on them.
    3099C02D-463B-43FA-8D04-5682F97CC375.jpeg 654BFC64-A16A-496F-A7F8-BA588D13C473.jpeg

    Original 5th Air Force Patch
    john65999, Brina, Larry E and 6 others like this.
  5. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    I have seen some of the modern ones with skulls before but wow is that Willie Nelson impressive!

    Is that first one yours @Al Kowsky ?
    Brina likes this.
  6. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    @rooman9 is that 5th Air Force an Australian unit?
    rooman9 likes this.
  7. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Jwt708, The 1st one is the only hobo nickel in my collection & I felt lucky to get my hands on it :smuggrin:.
  8. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    rooman9, You have an interesting specialty :D.
    rooman9 likes this.
  9. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Heavymetal, I don't blame you :cool:. I wish I could afford the best of the modern ones :(. Here are a few more I'd like to have :rolleyes:.

    Aleksey Saburov, 2014
    Cat with Hat.jpg
    Cat with a hat, Aleksey Saburov
    Happy Couple.jpg
    Happy couple, Aleksey Saburov
    Old Man with Pipe.jpg
    Old man with pipe. Aleksey Saburov
    Old Man with Bike.jpg
    Old man with bike, Aleksey Saburov
    Brina, Larry E, Chuck_A and 3 others like this.
  10. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Potty dollars are unoriginal and abhorrent....They lack in design and creativity and I've never seen one more creative than 'Liberty' sitting upon a chamber pot. Uncreative tripe. Other than that, the other selections are most creative indeed.....
  11. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    You haven't seen the one I have. ;) It's obscene.
    john65999 likes this.
  12. desertgem

    desertgem MODERATOR Senior Errer Collecktor Moderator

    Send it to whoever by PM, but use your judgment for the forum Thanks, Jim
  13. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    I have no intention of posting on the open forum, never did.
  14. rooman9

    rooman9 Lovin Shiny Things

    A US one based in the South Pacific during the war. So a lot of them were in Australia early on until they took over New Guinea. Hence why there’s the Southern Cross on it.
    LA_Geezer likes this.
  15. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    At the Fun Show each year there is a table where they make and teach folks the art. Fun to watch how it's done.
    JeffC likes this.
  16. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Thanks! Guess what just floated to the top of my wish list?

  17. rooman9

    rooman9 Lovin Shiny Things

    5th Air Force Patch? Or a carved florin?
  18. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    The carved florin. I collect military trade tokens with a focus on Air Force tokens and my collection also includes other forms of Air Force exonumia such as challenge coins, paper chits, etc. and an engraved coin would be a wonderful addition.
    rooman9 likes this.
  19. Ike Skywalker

    Ike Skywalker Well-Known Member

    Excellent post! I am a fan of hobo nickels, particularly the "skulls" carved by John Hughey. They are my favorite by far. In fact, I just purchased two from him last night, and they are on their way. I finally have a skull nickel with both the Indian and the buffalo/bison skeletonized. I will share updated pics once I have them in hand. Can't wait to get 'em.


    And a Peruvian skull.....

    peruvian skull.jpg

    Here are some other modern hobo nickels in my collection from John Hughey. Although similar in appearance, they are all unique in some way since each is hand carved.

    1935 WESTSKULL 9-1-15.jpg
    1936 WESTSKULL 2-24-17.jpg
    1936 WESTSKULL 10-10-13.jpg
    1936 WESTSKULL premium 5-15-16.jpg
    1937 WESTSKULL 2-23-17.jpg
    1937 WESTSKULL 9-5-15.jpg
    1937 WESTSKULL 9-15-15.jpg
    ripple, Nathan401 and Heavymetal like this.
  20. Ike Skywalker

    Ike Skywalker Well-Known Member

    Here are some of the "freaky face" hobo nickels, as John likes to call them. These have such a Halloween feel to them. I bought them without hesitation.

    1937 Dead-Buried 11-19-15.jpg
    1937 No Longer Human.jpg
    1938-D Freaky Face Zombie.jpg

    Other carvings by John Hughey. I have given him a lot of money over the years. :D

    73-S Hobo Ike JH.jpg
    74 Hobo Ike JH.jpg
    76-D T1 Hobo Ike JH.jpg
    2007-D GW Skull Dollar o-r.jpg
    KevinM and ripple like this.
  21. Ike Skywalker

    Ike Skywalker Well-Known Member

    Other hobo carvings by various artists.....

    74-D Hobo Ike CA.jpg
    78-D Hobo Ike VV.jpg
    1921 frankenmorgan.jpg
    1971-D Flower Girl.jpg
    2013-P Skull Half Dollar.jpg

    This one is a bit crude, but I find it charming nonetheless.

    1934 Pumpkin King.jpg
    KevinM, ripple, Rassi and 1 other person like this.
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