Click to return from whence you came! Nine Interesting Old Hobo Nickels
Click on any photograph for enlargement.

Stephen P. Alpert ~ July 11, 2004

      I would like to share with OHNS members the following nine old and interesting hobo nickels, most of which I acquired over the past year. There are always new, fascinating, and unusual hobo nickels awaiting to be discovered.

Click to view an enlargement of this photograph. Click to view an enlargement of this photograph.

1) A Two-Sided Silver-Plated Hobo Nickel ~ This is the silver-plated hobo nickel mentioned in the previous issue of "BoTales". I bought it in April, on eBay, from a seller in Greenwich, N.Y., who reported that this hobo nickel was found in a barn. The obverse is the standard design, and the reverse is a man with a sack over his back. Quality is about high Average to low Above Average on the obverse, and Above Average on the reverse. The artist is unknown. The coin was silver-plated after being carved. Now, the silver is worn off the high points. A typical old hobo wouldn't have had the facilities to silver-plate a carved nickel. So maybe a jeweler made this one.

Click to view an enlargement of this photograph. Click to view an enlargement of this photograph. Click to view an enlargement of this photograph.

2) A Two-Sided Superior 1917s Hobo Nickel ~ This XF 1917s hobo nickel has a large hole, which fortunately doesn't obliterate anything important. The workmanship is excellent - nice hat, superb large ear, nicely carver beard, altered eye and lips, nicely textured coat, and dressed field. On the reverse, the buffalo's face has been altered to that of a man, similar to the obverse face.

Click to view an enlargement of this photograph.

3) Woodland Ave. Nickel ~ This carving is on an XF Type II buffalo nickel. Quality is Above Average. The man has a flat-topped hat with a bow on the band, wavy hair-beard-mustache, shirt collar with bowtie, plus coat. The field is stippled with tiny beads. After the stippling was applied, the following wording was hand engraved: WOODLAND AVE (behind the head to above the rear of the hat) and NICKEL (in front of the face). .This hobo nickel was purchased from Bob Campbell at a recent Long Beach, Calif. coin show. I interpret the wording to mean that according to the unknown artist, this hobo nickel represented the coin of the realm amongst the hoboes who congregated on Woodland Avenue. I assume this Woodland Avenue had flop houses, a rescue mission, cheap eating places, and other businesses frequented by hoboes. I haven't been able to determine the city. I did Internet searches for "Woodland Ave." plus "rescue mission" or "hobo", etc., without any success. Can anyone help attribute this to a city or town? We are looking for a Woodland Ave., a commercial street frequented by hoboes, so it should be in a town or city on a railroad line.

Click to view an enlargement of this photograph. Click to view an enlargement of this photograph.

4) OOPS! Bad Hat Angle ~ I obtained this interesting hobo nickel at the 2004 FUN show bourse. Look at the hat. You will see two brims and hat bands with bow, rotated about 30 degrees from each other. It resembles a double-struck coin with about 30 degrees rotation between strikes. What apparently happened here is that the artist carved the brim and band at too steep an angle, and then realized there wasn't enough room left for the dome of the hat. So he started again, from the front, at a more appropriate angle, and left the earlier brim and band on the dome. The rest of the carving is fairly nicely done - small simple ear, straight lines for the hair behind the ear, different pattern for beard and mustache, altered eye and profile, thin smiling mouth, collar with jewel, plus coat. The Indian's braid is poorly dressed and is still boldly visible. Radial chisel cuts dress the entire field. Done on a Fine Type-II nickel.

Click to view an enlargement of this photograph.

5) What A Way To Wear A Hat! Another Bad Hat Angle ~ Most hats on hobo nickels are horizontal to tilted back about 45 degrees. But this guy's hat is tilted almost 90 degrees and is nearly vertical, on the very back of his head! What's keeping the hat on his head? Could it be the coin's border, or maybe he has sticky hair? The workmanship here is Average at best, on a VG 1913 raised ground nickel. But the hat balancing act displayed here makes this a fun hobo nickel.

Click to view an enlargement of this photograph.

6) The Crying Hobo ~ This carving is on an AU Type-II buffalo nickel. It pictures a small-headed man wearing a derby. What's unusual here is that he is crying! The eye is altered, with a tear at the bottom, and two more tears running down his cheek. This is the only crying person hobo nickel I've seen. The profile is altered. There is a simple collar and plaid coat. The field is chisel-dressed. I bought this piece at the Sept. 2003 Long Beach Coin Expo. On the reverse, a spray is shown coming from the buffalo's navel (the pointy tuft at the bottom of the belly between the front and rear legs) and going into a cup on the ground, from which drops are splashing out. This hobo nickel may have been carved by the artist I nicknamed "Wild Man" as it displays some of his characteristic features: a small head, a wild expression, and the lips parted at the corner of the mouth but not at the front in the profile.

Click to view an enlargement of this photograph.

7) Hatchet Job ~ I bought this strange hobo nickel back in 1995, from a Southern California coin dealer, for just $5.00. It is on a 1917 VG nickel. A lot of alterations was done by someone with little talent, possibly using just a chisel or screwdriver, and a hammer. The subject is a toothless man with a cigarette in his sunken-in mouth. He has a simple derby, ear, beard, altered eye and profile (with pointed nose and chin), eyebrow, and collar. The workmanship is about low Below Average, but interesting. I don't recall ever seeing another toothless man old hobo nickel.

Click to view an enlargement of this photograph.

8) Chiseled Features ~ Here is another unusual Below Average carving (on a Fine Type II coin), better quality than the above, and mostly chiseled. The features are bold and angular (nose, ear, hat band), sort of in a cubist style. Note the gap in the border to accommodate the pointy tip of the upswept beard. The mouth is indistinct, and the field is deeply dressed. I obtained this at the 2004 FUN bourse for $35.00.

Click to view an enlargement of this photograph.

9) FDR On A Jefferson Nickel ~ This is one of the nicest altered Jefferson nickels I've seen. It's on a 1942D coin. Jefferson is altered to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The bust is almost a silhouette, as the features on the head are lightly carved: hair, ear, and collar. The eye, nose, and mouth are very small. The field is nicely dressed to match the original field, above the head and behind the neck, where parts of Jefferson's head were removed. I obtained this on eBay in July 2003, for under $40.00.

Click on any photograph for enlargement.


Click to return from whence you came!