Although the history of carving miniature bas relief sculptures into coins stretches back to the 18th century if not earlier, it was greatly popularized in the early 20th century with the introduction of the Buffalo nickel. This particular coin was minted using soft metal and was imprinted with the portrait of an indian with bold features, making it easier to deface and transform into the portraits of other people, animals, or even scenery. Add to that the idle hands of unemployed artists during the depression (thus, “hobo”) and soon a flood of curious numismatic treasures were born.
Most of the images on hobo nickels are too folk artsy for my taste, however a number of artists etched away the flesh of the subject to reveal these awesomely macabre skulls. Hobo nickel carving remains a popular hobby today and it even has a society. Don’t you wish we had actual money that looked like this? Images linked to their sources, most of which are live Ebay auctions. (adapted from thisiscolossal [link])
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