Nashua Coins

Hobo Nickels

What is a Hobo Nickel?

For those of you uninitiated, the hobo nickel became popular during The Depression when homeless people or “Hobo’s” would carve the Indian face on the nickel and create many different faces on American coins by hand.  Often, they traded their artworks for a meal or other necessaries in their travels. These nickels are highly collectible. Some well-known Hobo artist creations garner huge prices during an auction. A single original hobo nickel went for a record price of $24,200 Jan. 12 during the Original Hobo Nickel Society’s 21st annual auction at the FUN show in Florida. 

The record lot, once part of the Bill Fivaz Collection, surfaced in the late 1930s by hobo George Washington “Bo” Hughes. “Bo” was one of the most prolific and talented carvers of nickels. To this day, many actively seek his works.  The record price was for the great two-sided “dicer” hobo nickel. More than 50 classics, nicknamed and modern carvers were present in the sale.



The altering of coins dates back to the 18th century and earlier. Altering hit its peak in the 1850’s. The most common alteration was the “potty coin,” engraved on US seated liberty coins from half cents to dollars. Also popularized during this period were “Love Token” primarily on silver coins. These usually contained engraved initials. However, these typically came to be by smoothing one surface of the coin and using engravers tools to produce more stylized artistic pieces for jewelry pendants and bracelets.

With the advent of the Buffalo nickel in 1913, the large thick profile of the Indian gave artists a larger template to work on. It became popular quickly.

Another attribution for the medium is that the name “Hobo Nickel” came from the city of Hoboken New Jersey just after World War I. This is due to the fact that there was a widespread practice of off-duty soldiers carving nickels with military likenesses. These were tributes to returning veterans.  Regardless of the source, many seek these American coins today.

“I was able to purchase a couple of these for Laurie in Manchester.  I believe the military one is from the 1903’s where the “Sleepy Head” coin is probably sometime later. Laurie love’s them, so that’s all that is important.” Gary was able to show me the display that Laurie set up at Nashua Coins & Collectibles showing off her Hobo Nickel collection. Laurie feels that this is one of the items that bring many aspects of their business together. That makes her loves these American coins even more! For more information about hobo nickels or what we have to offer, visit Nashua Coins & Collectibles or give us a call at (855)-287-2218! 

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