If you’re familiar with classic hobo nickels, they probably call to mind images of scruffy men hitching rides on boxcars, spending hours carefully etching designs into the famous Buffalo nickels. Hobo nickels are a uniquely American art form, developed during the Great Depression, but they didn’t end in the 1930’s. There is a thriving community of modern hobo nickel artists, producing beautiful coins with highly detailed designs. Here are just a few of them.
Aleksey Saburov is known for creating highly intricate and detailed designs, often using different kinds of metal to achieve a high-contrast effect. His 2016 hobo nickels have included a Horus and Annubis design, a skeletal buffalo, and a wizened sailor with a corncob pipe.
Narimantas Palsis is a hobo nickel carver from Lithuania. His designs display a sense of elegance and simplicity, without sacrificing high detail. His 2016 designs have included several dragons, a mermaid, and Albert Einstein.
Paolo Curcio is an Italian-born Spain-based artist, who fell in love with the art of hand engraving in 2011. His coins are often two-toned, with a focus on delicate details. Some of his recent designs include a skull-faced Balboa, Frankenstein’s monster, and Mickey Mouse dressed as the Statue of Liberty.
Harry I Caldwell IV produces coins of stunning detail, including custom portraits of individuals and animals. His recent designs have included a greyhound, a barn owl, and angry cartoon chickens. He collaborates with Sacramento-based artist Katherine Plumer on many of his coins, including the one shown here. He often leaves his creations for others to find, posting clues to the locations on Twitter.
Shane Hunter is a self-taught hobo nickel artist, who discovered the art form while searching for coins for his own collection. His designs often feature skull and skeleton motifs, as well as some classic hobo imagery.
In addition to these artists, The Original Hobo Nickel Society works to preserve hand-crafted hobo nickels and to make others aware of this unique art form. You can find them on Twitter and see their list of hobo nickel artists there, as well. To find out more about the Society, the art, and the artists, visit their page.
All photos credit of the individual artists.