The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 35, August 28, 2016, Article 22


The Original Hobo Nickel Society does a great job of promoting its specialty; the inclusion of Hobo Nickels in the Deluxe Red Book noted earlier in this issue is one good example of that. In her article Mainstreaming Hobo Nickels in the Fall 2016 issue of Bo Tales, Carol Bastable discusses how some artists and collectors have placed carved coins into circulation to raise awareness among the general public. Here's an excerpt. -Editor

There is a challenge in numismatics and that is to always bring more collectors to the hobby. This insures the growth of the hobby and also supplies new collectors to replace aged ones. Many coin clubs have young numismatist programs (YN programs) which introduce the idea of numismatic collecting to kids at a young age in the hopes they will follow on in collecting as adults. The best approach is through education (coins in the classroom), scout badges, and also indoctrinating the offspring of already collecting adults. The even bigger challenge is reaching adults outside the numismatic community whom have never given any thought to collecting coins, paper money, and exonumia.

Having a club table at a major coin show has given us visibility with traditional numismatic collectors and showcases our niche in numismatics.

The bigger issue and much harder to break through, is reaching those people outside of coin collecting entirely. It was previously predicted that those skull carvings, the ones that have many in our club offering strong opinions on, where going to be one of the tools to mainstream hobo nickels to the masses outside of numismatics. A few years ago a fictional book of short stories wrote about skull coin carvings that were cursed to those who crossed paths with the coins. Paolo Curcio was also featured in a book titled “Skullture”. Skull coin rings and coin pendants have proven to be the most popular hobo nickel design for one jewelry manufacturer and wholesaler. A skull coin carving found in pocket change was also reported in a blog outside of numismatic channels.

There are a few carvers out there that are leaving hobo nickels as tips, placing them in locations for the first passerby to discover, or putting them into circulation. Every time an oddity is discovered in change by an observant person, it is a potential person touched enough by the carving to want to learn more about the item. A number of years ago I received an anonymous letter in the mail with a 2005 Jefferson nickel whose portrait had been altered with the addition of spectacles. These coins were being engraved and then put back into circulation.

Hobo X is not the first to “spend” altered coins. At the age of sixteen, Larry Foster started playing around with coin carving. He had been a coin collector from age five. Foster would add hair or a hat on regular pocket change and then he would have fun spending it. He estimates that it was the mid 1980’s. All the while he pondered if he would ever see his coins again and what would ultimately become of them. With millions of coins out there in change, the odds were against him and he never saw his on work pass his hands again.

Harry Caldwell IV has taken an even grander step forward along these lines. On a few occasions he has left a coin carving in a public place for the first passerby to discover and covet. Geocaching comes to mind, especially when one looks at the mountain view where a carving was left. With no maps to find these and just a photo posted on social media, it makes one wonder when and if the lovely mountain view placement coin will be spotted. Another was placed in a more urban environment and was probably found the same day.

The Fall 2016 Bo Tales included a delightful image from the OHNS booth at the 2016 Summer F.U.N. show. A backdrop allows visitors to take photos with a giant hobo nickel. -Editor


This is a great idea and could be adopted by other hobby organizations. Having taken my family earlier this summer to Madame Tussauds wax museum, I saw first-hand how everyone loved taking pictures, especially selfies. I could envision a Numismatic Bibliomania Society booth with a backdrop of classic numismatic books and their authors. Or a giant South Dakota Mount Rushmore quarter, where you could pose climbing out of Lincoln's nose...

Thanks to Bo Tales Editor Ralph Winter for providing the image and text from the Fall 2016 issue. Thanks -Editor

For more information about the Original Hobo Nickel Society, see:

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