Monday, October 09, 2006

Hobo Nickels

I came across the most incredible collection on the internet. Hobo Nickels. These are hand carved coins made by the wandering homeless in America from decades ago. They typically used a Indian Head nickel as their medium. They reflect a very important and usually forgotten part of American history- through the first World War, Prohibition and the Roaring 20'’s, and the Great Depression. Please check out walrafen's collection. There are many more different nickels displayed there. He gives a great description and explanation of these items.
Each hobo nickel is unique as they were all individually hand carved, using the design of either the Indian or the buffalo as a base, and altering it to another design altogether. The Indian has been changed into clowns, women, other Indians, friends and loved ones, bearded men, ethnic figures, famous people, and self portraits. The buffalo has been turned into men with backpacks, and animals such as a donkey or elephant. The influence of the events of the times can be plainly seen as we view hoboes, servicemen in uniform, flapper girls, prisoners in chain gang garb, shopkeepers, and read dates, names, places, or other inscriptions put on the coins.

These nickels, carved by yesterday'’s homeless, were traded for meals, a place to sleep, a ride, or other favors. Some were carved with images of loved ones as mementos of better times, or to honor those lost to time.

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