thatcoinguy's Blog

25 Nov 2021

Hobo Nickels

Exonumia | thatcoinguy

Hobo nickels was a topic of confusion and interest in the September 2021 YN auction. There was a hobo nickel in the auction by an unidentified carver. The hobo nickel went for such a low amount of $YN, it caused Sam Gelbard (the current ANA YN director) to exclaim, "Do you guys even know what a hobo nickel is?" And to be absolutely honest, I had no idea! After reading multiple articles from the Numismatist, FUN, and everything in between, I finally know about these interesting, and frankly cool, numismatic collectibles.

When the Buffalo Nickel came out into circulation in 1913, it quickly became an American fan favorite. It a representation of a Native American on the obverse and a buffalo on the reverse. Americans (and collectors) liked the design because it was “purely American”. But another group of people appreciated the design a little more than others. The less fortunate.

As we all know, the 1920s was when the stock market crashed, and the money troubles started becoming an issue. This was the era of the so called “Hoovervilles”, many people losing their jobs… the list goes on and on. Hobos became a commonplace sight on the streets of pretty much everywhere. And when you don’t have much money, you need a way to make the money you do have last.

Nickels were the obvious choice for carving because they had little to no precious value (at the time), and had a large, high relief portrait to be manipulated into whatever the carver wanted. There were some Lincoln cents and the earlier Indian Head cents that have been found with hobo carvings, but the nickel is by far the most common.

Hobo nickels usually have the same carving on the front; a man with a derby cap. Although this design is by far the most common, there have also been carvings of Rabbis, soldiers, women, and other things of that nature. Reverse carvings are much harder to find than plain reverses. Common reverse designs include a man with a backpack, or a donkey.

Keep collecting,




Level 7

I read it twice


Level 5

Nice blog! I like hobo nickels they are nice art!


Level 6

These Hobo nickels are really cool. There is quite a history behind them. I'm lucky enough to have a couple in my collection. ; )


Level 4

Cool! Hobo nickels are some interesting coins.


Level 5

A different form of collecting. Some designs are neat.

AC coin$

Level 6

Good blog , nice


Level 6

It should be noted that one of the most famous, he is in the Smithsonian Museum, hobo nickel carvers is our own "Tiny" Daniel Leo Cross. Sadly he has passed away. He was a long time Summer Seminar driver and friend of mine. I am very lucky to have a couple of his hobos. Look him up. Thanks.


Level 5

I didn’t get a chance to meet Tiny, but I’ve heard many things about him from so many people.


Level 5

Great blog!

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