Nearly 40 hobo nickels, including at least seven created by renowned
hobo nickel artist George Washington “Bo” Hughes, will be auctioned
Sept. 15 in Santa Clara, California.
The hobo nickels are among the lots Kagin’s Auctions will offer in conjunction with
the CoinExpo Santa Clara held Sept. 15 to 17 at the
Santa Clara Convention Center.
The Reverse Proof American Buffalo, a model of
Also in this week’s print issue, we explore a cluster of Lincoln
cents found while searching two rolls and ponder their origin.
Hobo nickels are traditionally reworked Indian Head 5-cent coins,
commonly called Buffalo nickels. The Indian Head on the obverse or the
bison on the reverse, sometimes both, is repurposed, having the metal
of the design repositioned or carved away, with the end result being a
completely different rendering.
Hobos that traveled the rails of America during the first half of
the 20th century often used this type of pocket folk art to help pay
for meals and lodging along their way. Hughes was among the two best-known hobo nickel
artists, the other being Bertram “Bert” Weigand, Hughes’ friend and mentor.
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As Stephen P. Alpert writes on the website of the Original Hobo
Nickel Society, Hobo Nickels author Del Romines penned
that Hughes was the youngest of 10 or 11 children, the son of a freed
slave. Hughes left home at the age of 15 in 1915 and lived the life of
a hobo until 1980, after which his whereabouts became unknown. Hughes
is credited with producing thousands of hobo nickels using artistic
styles that specialists use to identify his works.
“Most of Bo’s hobo nickels are unsigned, but he did sign some ‘GH’
or ‘GWH,’ ” according to Alpert. “Only one specimen is known upon
which he signed his nickname ‘Bo.’ ”
Illustrated here are two of seven hobo nickels offered that were
executed by Hughes.
Here are the descriptions by Candace Kagin, a researcher and
collector of hobo nickels:
➤ Original George Washington “Bo” Hughes carving. The clown was a
favorite subject of Bo’s carvings as it is believed that amid his
vagabond travels he spent some time with carnivals and/or circuses.
The large ear, tilted hat, segmented collar and altered nose make this
a wonderful classic carving by one of the masters.
➤ Original George Washington “Bo” Hughes carving. This specimen was
done during Bo’s most proficient period, and is truly a classic.
Carved on a 1929 host coin, it exhibits all of his classic methods.
The hat, hat band and bow, the styled hair/beard, ear, eye, ski nose
and mouth are 100% typical Bo.
Among the non-Bo pieces cataloged for the Kagin’s sale are the
following (again, the descriptions are from Kagin’s):
➤ A handsome original carving by an experienced artist. The
subject’s hat is especially well done, with a curved, slightly raised
brim. Well structured ear design and collar. “Squint lines” appear
behind the eye and a gleaming stickpin on the tie add a nice touch.
The field surrounding the subject is fully dressed (smoothed). This
would certainly rank in the top echelon of hobo nickels.
➤ The most obvious features the unknown artist used on this original
carving are the flat derby (no hatband) and the enlarged nose. The eye
has been altered to a squint and the neck is long and thin. Enough
unusual aspects on this coin to create a good deal of interest.