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The U.S. Mint is revealing coins that are planned to be put into use after the alien takeover is complete.
The hobo nickel is a sculptural art form involving the creative modification of small-denomination coins, essentially resulting in miniature bas reliefs. The nickel, because of its size, thickness, and relative softness, was a favored coin for this purpose. However, the term hobo nickel is generic, as carvings have been made from many different denominations.
Due to its low cost and portability, this medium was particularly popular among hobos, hence the name.
Here is a brief video explaining the art form and where you might find some new alien coins for other examples of hobo coins as well as how you might make them on your own.
Early altered coins (1750s–1913)
The altering of coins dates to the 18th century or earlier. Beginning in the 1850s, the most common form of coin alteration was the “potty coin”, engraved on United States Seated Liberty coinage(half dime through trade dollar).
This time period was also the heyday of the love token, which was made by machine-smoothing a coin (usually silver) on one or both sides, then engraving it with initials, monograms, names, scenes, etc., often with an ornate border. Hundreds of thousands of coins were altered in this manner. They were often mounted on pins or incorporated into bracelets and necklaces. The love token fad faded out in the early 20th century; love tokens engraved on buffalo nickels are rare.
During this time period, hobo-style coin alteration could be found outside the United States, primarily in Britain, France, and South Africa.
The Buffalo nickel
When the Indian Head, or Buffalo nickel, was introduced in 1913, it became popular among coin engravers. The big Indian head was a radical departure from previous designs and would not be seen on any subsequent coins. The large, thick profile gave the artists a larger template to work on and allowed for finer detail.
On earlier coins, the head was much smaller in relation to the size of the coin. For example, on a Lincoln cent, the head covers about one-sixth of the area. On the Buffalo nickel, the Indian’s head occupies about five-sixths of the area. Moreover, the nickel is a larger coin. Large heads were sometimes found on earlier coins, such as the Morgan dollar and the Columbian half dollar commemoratives of 1892-93, but these coins were rarely altered because of their high value.
Another factor contributing to the Buffalo nickel’s popularity was the sex of the subject. Nearly all previous coins had depicted women (Liberty head nickels, Indian head cents, Barber and Morgansilver dollars). A male head has larger, coarser features (nose, chin, brow) that can be altered in many ways. Even the buffalo on the reverse could be changed into another animal or a man with a backpack.
Classic old hobo nickels (1913–1940)
Many talented coin engravers, as well as newcomers, started creating hobo nickels in 1913, when the Buffalo nickel entered circulation. This accounts for the quality and variety of engraving styles found on carved 1913 nickels. More classic old hobo nickels were made from 1913-dated nickels than any other pre-1930s date.
Many artists made hobo nickels in the 1910s and 1920s, with new artists joining in as the years went by. The 1930s saw many talented artists adopting the medium. Bertram Wiegand, known almost exclusively as Bert, began carving nickels in the teens, and his student George Washington Hughes, known as Bo, began carving in the late teens (and up to 1980). During this period, Buffalo nickels were the most common nickels in circulation.
The 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s were a transitional period for hobo coin engravers, during which the Buffalo nickel was gradually replaced by the Jefferson nickel. Some veteran nickel carvers such as Bo and Bert continued making hobo nickels in the classic old style. Bo, in fact, did his best work in the early 1950s, when he carved many spectacular cameo portrait hobo nickels.
Modern hobo nickels (since 1980)
Many carvers who were active during the 1960s and 1970s continued carving Buffalo nickels into the 1980s. Their coins were altered using punches (dashes, dots, arcs, crescents, stars) and some carving of the profile. The area behind the head is usually rough from dressing with a power tool. They created standard design hobo nickels (derby and beard), as well as many modern subjects, such as occupational busts (fireman, railroad engineer, pizza chef), famous people (Uncle Sam, Einstein), hippies, and others.
A major event occurred in the early 1980s, demarcating the transition from “old” to “modern” hobo nickels. This was the publication of a series of articles by numismatist Del Romines on the subject of hobo nickels. He soon published the first book on the subject, Hobo Nickels (ASIN B0006R7SFW), in 1982. Both centered on Bo and his carvings.
Other carvers also appeared in the 1980s and 1990s, introducing more modern subject matter (cartoon characters, witches, and animals). Most nickel carvers of the 1980s to mid-1990s are regarded by collectors as mediocre at best, but circa 1995, Ron Landis, an engraver in Arkansas, began creating superior quality carvings.
Some current prolific carvers are converting from quantity to quality, making fewer pieces of high artistic quality (as the market is flooded with lower quality quickly-made carvings). Modern carvings of superior quality sell for about the same prices as classic old original carvings of equal quality by unknown artists.
From the early 1980s to the present, modern lesser-quality carvings could and still can be purchased for as little as $5 to $10 each. Many new collectors found it hard to obtain good-quality old original hobo nickels (as they are so scarce and costly), so they began collecting the readily obtainable and cheap modern works.