The term “nickel hobo” may sound nothing special at first, but don’t be judgmental – it’s truly an impressive art. Named after the artists who made it known, the “hobos” (who used to travel on cargo trains) in America in the early 20th century. the pleasure of transforming classic coins with a knife or any other handy tool. Pretty small relief sculptures reflect their individuality, through images carved into sparkling metallic coins.
Decades later, original works of nickel hobo are still sought by collectors. Traditional art still exists today; There are still quite a few craftsmen who are still diligently creating art on ancient coins.
Here, let designs.vn explore the development history of hobo nickels with the faces still keeping fire for this traditional art.
History of Hobo Nickels
The first hobo nickels appeared from the 18th century in England, France and South Africa, carved as a coffin of love. These metal symbols (often engraved with their initials or full names) were then used as gifts and often incorporated into jewelry.
After being popularized in 1913, buffalo nickel was warmly received by coin engravers in America. Whereas earlier coins were typically engraved with only a very small decorative pattern (such as a Lincoln coin, which was only about one-sixth of the area), the Native Indian image covered 5 out of 6 of the copper’s surface Buffalo nickel coins.
The large, thick metal model allows more space for intricate details and complex designs – a change in convention. Nearly all of the older coins are adorned with the woman’s head (such as the Liberty Head nickel coin). In contrast, the image of men on nickel Buffalo has diverse characteristics that allow artists more space to transform their faces into a variety of characters, including skulls, self-portraits or their friends. . Even the back of a coin (shaped like a buffalo) is often transformed into another animal, such as a donkey or an elephant or even a man walking with a backpack on his shoulder.
Regardless of the chosen design, artists have to spend hundreds of hours shaping, using chisels, knives, hammers and any other suitable items.
Photo: Richard Elzey
Nickel hobo coins started popping up all over America. As the years passed, more and more people followed this craft. Bertram Wiegand (aka Bert) is probably the most profitable nickel hobo artist since that time, along with his student, George Washington Hughes (aka Bo).
Sadly, Bo’s life reflected the economic slowdown at the time. The crafting discipline required extreme meticulousness, permanently disabled his hands. Once, while working with nickel, his chisel suddenly slipped and fell into his hand. The trauma forced the once great engraver to reduce productivity, and his finished pennies were no longer of the high quality expected. However, Bo’s coins are still popular among Numismatists (coin collectors and related objects). But beware the knockoffs that people call “neo bos” today – still circulating in niche markets.
During the 1930s, the Buffalo coin remained the number one engraver’s choice, until it was replaced by a Jefferson coin in 1938. Since the 1940s, many new engravers appeared. From there, the design style and theme of the coin began to change to reflect the changing times.
It is estimated that around 200,000 classical hobo nickel coins were made between 1913 and 1980, and many modern artisans continue to pursue this tradition. Let’s take a look at some of the works of nickel hobo being created by talented artists today.
Contemporary Hobo Nickel Artists