Hobo nickels can be found at all price levels

In the 1920s and ’ 30s a nickel would buy a cup of Joe ; but for hobos, Bert Wiegand and Bo Hughes, their daedal coins — hobo-hand-carved-nickels were more valuable than the run-of-the-mill-five-cent objet d’art. Their singular coins might buy a hot meal, or possibly coax a train tune detective to look the early direction as they hopped a cargo. today, those special nickels are dearer ; they are now valued at $ 50 to $ 100 or even in overindulgence of $ 1,000. A ‘ tramp ’ nickel is an artistically adapted buffalo, or indian head nickel. The nickel first minted in 1913 with the large profile of a native American was a natural attraction for those carving their artwork onto a coin. The thickness and ductile quality of the coin provided an excellent surface for the engraver to add his or her personal vignette.

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The nickel ’ s humble monetary value besides added to its desirability for carvers ; you ’ vitamin d be distressed to find anyone, in those early years, uncoerced to take a silver dollar out of circulation merely to embellish it ; discounting its font value. Engraving coins didn ’ t begin with the 1913 nickel ; most likely it started centuries ago. however, in mid and deep 1800s, engraving one ’ sulfur personalization onto a coin was a common practice. Coins were prime smooth on one or both sides, and the engraver ’ s graphic creation was engraved onto the coin. many of those coins were used as identification tokens. During the American Civil War, engraved copper, silver and sometimes amber pieces were used as soldiers ’ frump tag —precursor to today ’ s military ID tags. Coins were besides altered to serve as pieces of jewelry — incorporated into pins, bracelets or necklaces. many were tokens of memorial or the tithe of one ’ south affections for another.

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Silver dollar hobo nickel An 1895 argent dollar tramp ‘ nickel. ’ This was done with hammer and cheat only. The mint and circulation of the 1913 buffalo nickel was the beginning of the ‘ tramp ’ nickel. That large-side profile of an amerind became the mise en scene on which the engraver added his or her personal sketch. The large buffalo on the turn back was besides reworked into another type of animal ; but far less often, it offered a more restrict analyze. From that point on, the mint artists, in this strictly american phenomenon, plied their craft. The first artists were migrant hoe boys ( the mean behind the acronym, ‘ hobo ’ ) who travelled the rails in the first half of the twentieth century, looking for farm bring from planting time through recently fall — not tramps as the name late implied. These original artists armed with no more than a knife and sometimes a hand punch, turned out the original ‘ tramp ’ nickels. Along the way, newer artists learned the craft and with mod engrave tools, turned out some more detail bring. The old world buffalo nickel was predominately the coin of choice over the decades. In 1941, the Jefferson nickel was put into circulation. A numeral of artists used the Jefferson nickel as the establish for their personal invention, but several of the erstwhile hands continued using the old world buffalo five cent firearm .Hobo nickel signed SDC. change by reversal on Cox ’ s Hobo nickel signed in his initials, SDC.

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The grandfather of the tramp nickel phenomenon was Bertram Wiegand. He created his beginning tramp nickel around 1913. On a count of occasions, he found himself fair skirting the law or running hasty into it. During the Great Depression, Bert ran afoul of the law and spent a year or more in prison. According to legend, he carved nickels for the guards, which helped him pass the meter. In belated years he found himself on the flea grocery store hawking his tramp. It was in Asheville, North Carolina during the 1940s that Bert faded from the video, but not before passing along his craft to George Washington “ Bo ” Hughes. Hughes, a bite younger than Wiegand, was born to a sharecropper, possibly a early slave, in Mississippi around 1900 or indeed. “ Bo ” was prolific. Beginning to carve a few years later than Bert, he produced thousands of ‘ tramp ’ nickels well into the 1980s and he credited Wiegand with his success, freely admitting that “ Bert taught me ‘ bout everything I know. ” This becomes quite apparent when comparing coins by Bert and ‘ Bo ’ ; some are quite alike. many of Bo ’ s tramp nickels were left unsigned, with a few tagged with his initials : GH or GWH. Bertram Wiegand identified a number of his pieces in a alone manner ; removing the L, I and Y from the son Liberty on the confront of the coin, leaving alone BERT .Bob Shamey carved hobo nickel Bob Shamey carved this capricious cartoon tramp nickel using a 1928 buffalo nickel. respective hobo nickel carvers emerged during those early years, but most remain unidentified and their names lost to time. But their legacies have endured ; many of the master unknowns have been given nicknames, such as ‘ insignificant ear ’ ‘ flat nose ’ and ‘ no neck ’ based on personal characteristics in their designs. Through the years, the line delineating what is considered a ‘ real ’ tramp nickels has shifted. Some diehards believed that merely the tramp nickels carved by the original hobos were authentic, but nowadays ’ randomness modern carvings are besides included as ‘ tramp ’ nickels. A major milestone in the creation of tramp nickels came about with the publication of articles and a book about tramp nickels written by Del Romines in 1982. His book attracted a newfangled cell of tramp nickel engravers and drew collectors tidal bore to acquire the coin sculptures. The prices of tramp nickels cover a wide range, with some starting under $ 20 and going well into the hundreds of dollars, and certain respect examples costing vitamin a much as several thousand. ( At the 2008 OHNS auction a nickel carved by Bert Wiegand garnered $ 9,020. ) These pouch change carvings are offered at prices agreeable to any collector ’ second budget. These scratch coins are of great interest to numismatists, and collectors of art and engravings. Many of the coins are within the kingdom of miniature portraiture. Some enthusiasts are attracted to particular themes ; possibly Indians, or celebrated historic figures such as Lincoln, or possibly a Civil War soldier .“Steam Locomotive” hobo nickel “ Steam Locomotive ” by Robert Morris. Carved on obverse of this 1935 nickel. Offered at $ 400 on eBay. Image courtesy of eBay seller many collectors follow the work of specific artists, old and new. And, there are many tramp artists to choose from. There are besides levels of skill and choice of oeuvre, which is reflected in the prices realized. Rarity is besides a gene. several tramp nickels may be found on eBay, equally well as know and other on-line auctions and sellers. As with any collectible, authenticating the old master tramp nickels requires some expertness. Cut lines on early tramp nickels show clothing, and are smooth to the touch ; debris within the cuts, ampere well as scrapes and gouges, are apparent. All original buffalo tramp coins have early dates and many are carved on one slope only ; in most cases, with their only tool — a penknife. After the publication of Del Romines ’ book in 1982, some of the new nickel artists copied from illustrations, of “ Bo ’ s ” nickel carvings, found in Romines ’ book, and tried passing them off as authentic. For the past 20 or 25 years, a issue of contemporary artists, men and women, have raised the level of the art form in turning out superior tramp nickels ; many sign their influence and count the pieces consecutive. Designs on the earliest nickels were bare ; many based on facial anatomy — beards, ears and noses. different hats were added — often a bowler hat or some dash of detonator. As clock time has passed, more modern themes have appeared : hippies, bikers, several cartoon characters and contemporaneous figures and designs. The levels of skill vary — from a vestigial basic alteration to the existing portrayal on the face of the nickel, to wholly transforming the coin into something altogether different. One fantastic exercise of sculpt art is Sam Alfonso ’ s ‘ Julius Caesar ’ with a raised, 24 karat laurel headpiece ; each leaf is carved individually. Carver Stephen D. Cox offers a lake superior, classical tramp nickel, with copper inlay feather, signed on the inverse with his initials, SDC, valued at $ 250 .Chief Costalotta 1913 buffalo nickel Another by goldsmith and jewelry maker Bob Shamey this 1913 old world buffalo nickel, with two diamonds and a 24Kt gold inlay headband. Image courtesy of eBay seller Another bang-up exemplar, hand-carved by J.W. Hughey, a contemporaneous design, “ the Masquerade Skull ” was priced over $ 500. Hughey is, as are many nickel artists, a register extremity of the Original Hobo Nickel Society. Another superior piece of nickel art : a 1936 buffalo nickel, entitled, “ Greenman ” by John Schipp, sold for a little over $ 160. A superior exemplar by Joe Paonessa, the driver fetched $ 330 in a previous Original Hobo Nickel Society auction. Goldsmith and engraver, Bob Shamey ’ s extravagant ‘ Chief Costalotta ’ tramp 1913 nickel, is embellished with two diamonds, and a 24-karat aureate headband occasionally, although not as centripetal to carving, coins other than buffalo and Jefferson nickels — quarters, half-dollars vitamin a well as silver dollars — have been artfully altered. Despite being different coins they are hush considered in the kingdom of tramp nickels. today, many examples on the market are pressed or stamped ; most sellers advertised then honestly as such and price them accordingly—as low as a few dollars .Hobo nickel ‘The Driver’ ‘ The Driver ’ by Joe Paonessa. This pocket change sculpt sold for $ 330 at a former Original Hobo Nickel Society auction. Image courtesy of Original Hobo Nickel Society For those seeking information about collecting Hobo nickels, there are a numeral of dependable resources. aside from Romines 1982 book, there is an update translation by his wife, Joyce Ann Romines, entitled, The Hobo Nickel, republished in 1996. This edition contains extra data supplementing the 1982 publication.

Another capital reservoir on tramp nickels is Stephen P. Alpert ’ s The OHNS Hobo Nickel Guidebook, immediately in its third base print. And the OHNS ( Original Hobo Nickel Society, www.hobonickels.org ), offers a wealth of practical cognition to newcomers and veterans alike. The company authenticates and grades the nickels, using a five-rating scale, from blunt to superior. Sources :

  • Alpert’s Artist’s Galleries, www.hobonickel.org/alpert05.htm.
  • Article: Collecting Hobo Nickels; A Hobby in Transition, by Leon Worden, COINage Magazine, Vol. 42, No. 7 July 2006.
  • Nickel Carver’s ShowCase, www.hobonickel.org/showcase.htm.
  • Numismatic News, www.numismaticnews.net.
  • The Hobo Nickel, by Joyce Ann Romines, 1996.
  • The OHNS Hobo Nickel Guidebook, by Stephen P. Alpert, 2001.
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