Currency makes a unique kind of canvas. For one, the images on our coins and bills are iconic, which creates room for a lot of creative fun once you start changing them, and two, it's illegal to deface money, which makes any kind of currency art intrinsically subversive.
At the end of December the visual art website Colossal ran a post on an especially neat branch of currency art known as "hobo nickels." The art form dates to 1913, when the Buffalo nickel was introduced. The nickel's thickness, size, and the relative softness of its metal made it ideal for creating miniature bas reliefs, and its portability and inexpensiveness made it a popular art form among itinerant people (hence the term "hobo" nickel).
Hobo nickels were popular throughout the early and mid-20th century and are still being created in abundance today. The Colossal post featured the work of hobo nickel artist Paolo Curcio of Barcelona, who largely sticks to traditional hobo nickel themes by carving images of skulls and death into a variety of coins (not just nickels). It's amusing to see a skull-topped traveler advancing across the face of a coin where you're used to encountering a president. It's also a little bit unsettling, which makes you realize the kind of low-level emotional attachment we form over time with the faces on our money.
Images courtesy of Paolo Curcio.
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