The buffalo nickel has been a hot topic recently around the
Money Museum. Much of the talk about buffalo nickels surrounds the fact that
Coin Week is only three months away and the ANA staff is
working hard to prepare for the eventful week.
When one discusses the buffalo nickel, it is not long before the
topic of the hobo nickel quickly enters the conversation. The
buffalo nickel is celebrating its 100-year anniversary, hence the
hobo nickel itself is celebrating its 100-year anniversary. This
week's blog will examine the history behind the hobo nickels and
explain why buffalo nickels were typically used by artists to
design creative and artistic hobo nickels.
A large majority of hobo nickels were designed during the Great
Depression. With a lack of employment during this era, many
individuals were forced to venture to other locations to find
Those with an artistic ability saw the buffalo nickel as a way
to demonstrate their artistic craft and a way to create an item
that would hold trading value. Buffalo nickels were created from
1913-1938, therefore, during the Great Depression they were in
abundance. These coins provided a large, thick planchet and
high-relief profile for artists to work on, allowing for fine
detail work. Furthermore, the coins were small and convenient for
travel, thus becoming a canvas for traveling
Both sides of the coin were used to create various sculptures.
Some of the most popular designs using the Indian head were bearded
men with bowler hats, clowns, women, other Indians, famous people
and self portraits. On the reverse side, the Buffalo was used to
create donkeys, turtles, elephants, hobos with backpacks and
(Indian head carved into a
man with a bowler hat and beard)
For many drifters who carved hobo nickels, they traded them for
a meal, sweater or place to sleep.
Bertram "Bert" Wiegand and George Washington "Bo" Hughes are two
carvers who stood above all others in their era of carving. The
fine detail in their work made them exceptional artists.
Hobo nickels can be classified into three categories.
Classic: Buffalo nickels carved from 1913 into
Modern: Coins carved since the 1950s
Hobo tokens: modern, struck versions of hobo
Today, hobo nickels are collector items. Yet, hobo nickel
carvers still exist today and the number of carvers has increased
in recent years. Some of that increase has to do with Joe
Paonessa and Ron Landis - both are hobo
nickel carvers who teach courses on how to carve
hobo nickels at the annual ANA
When I observe a Hobo nickel, I still am baffled how artists
were able to create such interesting and detailed designs on
coins. If you have never seen a hobo coin or just want to get
another chance to view them, take a trip to the Money Museum at 818
N. Cascade Ave. in Colorado Springs, Colo.