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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 48, November 20, 2011, Article 15

MIMI BIZIC AND THE HOBO NICKELS BOOK

I saw a name from the past while working on this issue of The E-Sylum. Many years ago when I was a young collector living in the Pittsburgh area, a woman named Mimi Bizic came to one of the local club meetings to talk about Hobo Nickels. It was a new subject to me and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about these carved folk artworks. This article in the Beaver County Times discusses Mimi and her contribution to American numismatic literature - inspiring the first book on Hobo Nickels. -Editor

A few weeks ago, I wrote about hobos riding the rails on both sides of the Ohio River and those who, like me, saw them first hand.

That mention brought back some other memories for Mim Bizic of Moon Township, a former teacher and librarian at Edgeworth Elementary School in the Quaker Valley School District. During her years of teaching, she highlighted many different subject matters. One year on Veterans Day, about 50 veterans and I who could squeeze into our uniforms spoke at a school assembly about our World War II experiences.

Another area of interest was in numismatics coin collecting. Back in 1981, noted collector Del Romines traveled 450 miles at Bizic's request from Kentucky to Edgeworth Elementary. He was pleasantly surprised to find such a receptive audience in Bizic's fourth-grade class as he talked about regular coins, error coins and some unusual coins made by a 5-foot-4-inch black hobo, George Washington Hughes, better known as "Bo."

Bo's talent was reworking the stoic Indian nickel designed by James Frazier into jockeys, clowns, friends, famous faces, presidents and self portraits. His "hobo nickels" works have become some of the most sought-after unique items of numismatic interest.

The enthusiasm shown by the students brought attention to them, Romines and "Bo." There were stories in national publications such as Numismatic News and Coin World. There were also newspaper articles in the Sewickley Herald by Joe Smith and Mike May. Smith wrote on March 4, 1981, that "it all goes to show how far enthusiasm can go in this case all the way from Louisville to Edgeworth."

Mara Meisel had a story, "Book Traces Hobo Nickels Wandering History," in the Pittsburgh Press and said "that a nickel wouldn't go far today, but during the Depression an artistic hobo could turn a nickel into a meal or extra cash by re-carving the surfaces of the buffalo nickel." Romines also appeared on Cathy Milton's WTAE-TV show with Bizic and students from her class and at their insistent prodding, he decided to write an extensive resources book about hobo nickels. The book, "Hobo Nickels," made its debut in Boston at the meeting of the American Numismatic Association. Listed among the acknowledgments in the front of the book are Bizic and her class.

To read the complete article, see: Former teacher introduced students to hobo nickels (www.timesonline.com/columnists/gino_piroli/former-teacher
-introduced-students-to-hobo-nickels/article_
2aa8bad6-366f-5cf2-a811-34211872e72c.html#.Tsmr-sOBq0s)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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