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Dead Presidents

Hobo nickels are actual U.S. coins (usually Buffalo nickels but sometimes Jefferson) whose original image has been carved away and replaced with something more whimsical. These folk-art pieces are known as hobo nickels because hobos supposedly started carving them on long train rides during the Depression. In fact, hobo nickels first appeared in 1913, the year the Buffalo nickel was released, and are still carved by artists today.

Nickels were selected for their thickness and width, as well as the fact that they were cheaper to work on than quarters. Typically, the Indian chief on the coin’s obverse would be modified into a bearded man wearing a hat. The buffalo on the coin’s reverse was often left alone or transformed into a locomotive. In early hobo nickels (those made prior to World War II), details like the coin’s date and the word “LIBERTY” near the chief’s forehead were left intact, a tradition continued by contemporary hobo-nickel artists… read more >

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