The word hobo derives from the 19th-century term hoe boy, describing an itinerant farm worker who carried his belongings inside a bundle of fabric tied to his hoe. The term hobo nickel, describing the folk art of coin carving, honors certain hoboes who practiced it on Buffalo nickels in the 1910s through the 1940s. . . .
. . . Even though the tough copper-nickel alloy was hard to work (especially with a pocket knife), the bust afforded plenty of room to add details such as hats, beards, amusing hairstyles, enlarged noses, and the like, and the buffalo on the reverse could readily be altered into another animal or anything else an imaginative carver could think of. The best-known early hobo carvers were Bertram Wiegand and his protégé, George Washington Hughes, known to today’s collectors by their respective signatures: “Bert” and “Bo.” Between 1913 and 1980, Bert, Bo, and other artists created somewhere around 100,000 “classic” hobo nickels. The 1913 date is the most prevalent. New carvings are still being made today, and already these outnumber the classic group. Some are close copies of famous classic pieces.
—Katherine de Silva, A Guide Book of U.S. Tokens and Medals
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While trawling the Web for suitably spooky hobo nickels and encountering quite an array of designs, Diana decided to set a few brief criteria to reduce the selection. The designs had to be scary, rather than just fancy; they had to incorporate the original artwork rather than use the coin as a blank canvas; and they couldn’t be mass-produced (at least, not to the average eye).
So, in the spirit of the Halloween season, we give you Coin Update’s first Pinterest board: Hobo Nickels – Ghoulish.