The A to Z Challenge – H for Hobo Nickels

The A to Z Challenge is on! Hello and welcome to my Main blog. My name is Rose Anderson and I’m a romance novelist. Join me and more than 2279 bloggers and authors as we blog the alphabet throughout the month of April. My daily posts will be mostly history with some science topics here and there. I’ve chosen subjects that tickle my fancy, I hope you will find them interesting too.

Keep the topic rolling! If you have comments or questions, add them at the end of the post. I may not know the answer off the top of my head but I love research and would enjoy discussing my topics further. Comments can be made just below my bio in the tag section.

*FREE* If you enjoy reading scorching romances with unique twists and characters full of personality and depth, scroll down for a free chapter sampler. Find my book trailers in the tabs above.


Today’s Calliope’s Writing Tablet post is brought to you by the letter H ~
H for Hobo Nickels

People who know my family know my husband does his Quest. That’s his term for shopping for Christmas presents for me. His goal is to find the most unusual things he can find because as he said to me once, “the gifts have to be unusual because you’re an unusual person.” Yep, that’s me. One year he came home with seven Hobo Nickels. At their heart these are the old buffalo nickels (also called Indian head) with an American buffalo on the tail side and a Native American man on the head side. But Hobo nickels are more than just their 5⊄ value (or whatever value individual old coins have). They are micro canvases for artistic expression.3

As far back as coinage goes, if someone minted coins, there was someone defacing them.  I’ve found reference to ancient Chinese coins being altered with images of puppets, horses, and elephants. The Victorians were big on love tokens I have two (from my husband’s quest) with faces smoothed away and flourished script carved in its place. These were worn as jewelry or on watch fobs. My husband collects Hard Times Tokens, those odd shop coins that stood in for currency when the nation had it’s first economic Depression in the early 1800’s. He has a few with holes drilled in them so they might be worn like a token or a pendant. In other words, defaced.

The Buffalo Nickel was minted at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mint facilities and was in circulation from 1913 to 1938. Hobo nickel carving as we know it began in 1913 shortly after they were released to circulation. Collectors know this because more are dated 1913 than at any other time before 1930 suggesting this interesting craft became a fad that year of release. That large face and buffalo on the easily manipulated metal just begged to be altered with penknives and nails.  Lore has it these things were made by the hobos of the Great Depression to give in exchange for a bite to eat or a place to sleep for the night. According to some accounts of the time, the nickels were among other handicrafts traded exactly so. Others believe they are called hobo because one of the more 1common carvings is a bearded man in a shabby hobo-style hat. I’m sticking with the hobo story because some of the coins can be raced back to two artist hobos who met each other in one of the many hobo jungles a.k.a.  camps along the rail yards. Bert Wiegand (carving from 1913 to 1949) signed his coins by carving away at L I B E R T Y until he got B E R T. Bert’s buddy and disciple carver was Bo Hughes (carving from1915 to 1980). Bo’s fun creations turned the buffalo into an elephant or a donkey.

No longer the artwork of the itinerant rail rider, modern carving is a popular hobby and  coin show attraction. It’s estimated that upwards of 200,000 hobo nickels have been made since 1913. Some have sold for more than $2000 a piece.  My husband gave me a roll of nickels and an engraver this past for Christmas. I think I’ll carve me an elephant!

Useful to know: the oldest hobo nickels are the ones with the duosharpest coin detail, such as dates or lettering. Coins that spent a lot of time in circulation show wear in these areas.

So many hobos!

Modern carving (a youtube channel full of live carving)


Tomorrow ~ letter I


Authors_in_Bloom-300x250**NEW THIS WEEK** on my satellite blog!

It’s Day3 in the Authors in Bloom event. It highlights those things authors do outside the fiction. We garden, we cook, we craft etc. One of the more unusual things my husband and I have done was lead wild foods programs for Chicago’s Field Museum. For this event I’ll be sharing my recipes. Do stop by. You may have delicious ingredients waiting in your backyard!


It’s the final stretch in the 100 Things Blogging Challenge!
For nearly 100 days, 002xbqkt
I’ve posted from my chosen topic: Words on the Verge of Extinction. There are 4 entries to come.

Here’s one for today:

Scelidate (adjective 1877)
~having legs; legged


4 Us iconSee what’s happening on the RB4U blog today

Our April contest is on. We’ll have 3 winners and a lot of prizes to split among them.


Love Waits in Unexpected Places –
Scorching Samplings of Unusual Love Stories
Download your copy of my free chapter sampler!all7books-small




About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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14 Responses to The A to Z Challenge – H for Hobo Nickels

  1. skmarshall2014 says:

    What a neat hubby you have to find you such interesting presents, Rose.

  2. What interesting things to collect! I never heard of them before. Are you creating your own hobo nickels? I assume so since you are very artistic.

    • Thanks. 🙂 He bought me a whole roll of buffalo nickels so that’s the plan. I tried and hurt myself already. I need a holder for the coin to keep it stead. Hobo I’m not.

  3. As you carve the nickels in your roll, please show them on your blog, Rose. I just know they will be unique.

    • I will! I tried to make the hobo hat shortly after he gave them to me and promptly sent the engraver over the side of my finger. Major ouch. I need a gadget that holds the coin down.

  4. melissakeir says:

    What a fun post! How lucky to have such a caring hubby. You have the best information!!

  5. A. Catherine Noon says:

    Wow. I really enjoyed learning about hobo customs and coins; I had no idea. Your husband sounds like a really fun person!

    This is A. Catherine Noon, visiting from my blog at for the A-Z Challenge, #327 on the list. Happy blogging!

  6. Ray G says:

    The only defaced coins I’ve seen other than a hole for jewelry is the flattened penny containing the Lord’s Prayer. They were quite popular at one time.

    Very interesting post.

    • Thanks, Ray. My mother had one of those. I have a small collection of elongates. Pennies are such low quality now you can’t expect a good result when use them in the penny machines. The clad copper slips in the flattening and makes a sloppy elongate. We now keep a roll of older, but not rare, pennies in the glove compartment. This site tells you where you can find the machines in your state.

      • Ray G says:

        Not only are new pennies poorly made, the DOD will not ship them overseas. All transactions at commissaries, exchanges and disbursing offices as well as on base vendors round to the nearest nickel. They soon may disappear in commerce at home. Every times I see the coins that used to be silver I get very sad. You can see the copper color on the edges.

      • My husband and son go metal detecting. The new pennies just melt away in the acids in the soil, and it takes very little time. I know what you mean about feeling sad about the coins getting made cheaply. It’s almost indicative of the overall value of our money.

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