Modern love token by Andy Gonzales


By J Press

The resurgence of modern love tokens is tied in with Hobo Nickels.  In the 1980’s, craftsmen took up the art of the hobo nickel bas relief carving.  These hobo nickels made by non-hobo craftsmen during the eighties were later termed “Neo-Boes.”   J Allen, J Press*, Frank Brazzell, and John Durousa led the movement.  In recent years another hobo nickel carver from this period was identified and named “Carvetoon.”

By J Allen

Carvetoon was not your typical hobo nickel artist, the engravings more resembled love tokens.  They were made from low grade Liberty nickels and Indian cents as well as a selection of foreign coins.  The coins were smoothed down but fine parallel lines were left etched in the coin’s surface.  This is one diagnostic for this artist.  The other is the subject mater, the art was cartoon like.  Both popular comic strip characters and animals made their way onto the coins.  The images can best be described as designs resembling coloring book linear drawings.

Engraved by Carvetoon


By Frank Brazzell

 The coin art of the 1980’s was made for profit and the carvings were done rather speedily.  One person later joined this Renaissance movement and turned hobo nickels into a fine art.  Ron Landis was a die engraver and opened the Gallery Mint.  As a hobby in his spare time he carved hobo nickels.  They were painstakingly detailed and not for sale.  Occasionally a good friend was given one but they were not sold.  Later in the late 1990’s a few came on the market at auction and set record prices, thus creating a new marketplace for laboriously carved and expertly made hobo nickels.  Ron Landis is credited with being the grandfather of the “modern” hobo nickel movement.

By Ron Landis


By John Dorusa

 Within a few years, many more modern carvers sprung up.   The difference between hobo nickels and love tokens is that hobo nickels are sculptural and raised while love tokens are flat with designs carved below the surface of the coin.  Love token art is quite similar to scrimshaw art, except the metal is denser and harder to carve.  Also metal engraving uses a variety of line and angles. The angles create bevels in the metal and shinny diamond cut looking lines.  In scrimshaw, the line is just a trench and filled with ink.  With the new market established, master engravers as well as one scrimshaw artist began making hobo nickels.

What that means for love tokens is that many of these new hobo nickels have more engraverly effects combined with the sculpting.  They are a bridge between the two worlds.  Sometimes they loose all their relief and are just engraved coins.  Andy Gonzales, a master engraver, started out making hobo nickels in his down time from his regular engraving orders.  Recently he has been transitioning into making more love tokens and listing them for sale as such.  The love token is more in line with his engraving training.  Gonzales may become the pioneer for a modern love token movement. 


Above: Modern Love Tokens by Andy Gonzales on Liberty Nickels 


NOTE: * J Press started carving in the late 1970’s but is best linked to the later group of carvers from the 1980’s.  His carvings overlapped between the Classic period (1913-1980) and the Neo-Bo period, also termed Early Modern (1980’s carvers).



Update, more love token engravers on the scene since the above text (2012):

Below Modern Love Tokens by Shaun Hughes:

 1939 British Half Crown  1921 Morgan Dollar  1896 Morgan Dollar  1889 Morgan Dollar
1902 Liberty nickel 1931 British Half Crown 1922 Peace Dollar  1933 British Florin 


 Below Modern Love Tokens by Gediminas Palsis:

1902 Liberty Nickel  1906 Liberty Nickel  1902 Liberty Nickel  1942 Washington Quarter 
1903 Liberty nickel  1924 Buffalo nickel  1908 Liberty nickel  1921 Morgan dollar 


Below Modern Love Tokens and bracelet by Elmer Villarin:

            1943 Half Dollar  1941 Mercury Dime.     Dead donkey with inscription.         Sterling band style bracelet 


Below Coins by Tom Mahr:

 Titanic on a 1912 
Liberty nickel
Wright brothers on a
1903 Liberty nickel
Sculpting and rounding of
the moon like a hobo nickel
Multi level carving with raised rim/date and lowered field





      1945 Canadian dime

       Heart on Buffalo nickel

        Native American theme
        on Buffalo nickel.
        Native American theme
        on Buffalo nickel.


Below Love Tokens by Howard Thomas:


 Pictorial with cut down coin.  1946 walking liberty half dollar.  Note that it is signed and dated.         Cat engraved on a 1953
           Washington quarter. 
Pictorial on a 1944 walking liberty half dollar.
 1941 Walking liberty half dollar.              1943 Half dollar. Half dollar with 24K gold inlay.       Walking Liberty half dollar.


Below Love Token by Paolo Mrthe Curcio:

                                                                 Hobo nickel carver now branching out into love tokens.  
                                                                          V nickel host coin, completed 2/7/2013
                                                     Extremely ornate and intricate, note that gold was inlaid in the stars.
Step 1, Outlining the border.
Note: What looks like notches out of the coin at left and right is the vise that holds the coin. 
    Step 2, Adding detail and   
     dimension to the border.

Step 3, Outlining the subject.

Step 4, Adding gold stars and darkening the background.
Step 5 above, Subject detail.


Below Love Tokens by Pedro Villarrubia Agudo:

      Artist’s first love token.      “One Day in the Paradise”
    Engraved on a buffalo nickel
           “Love is in the air” 
          engraved on a nickel.
       Made for charity auction.
         Bulino style engraving.


Below Love Tokens by Daymon:

                          “King of the Deck” on Buffalo nickel                               “Lil Chinita” on Buffalo nickel


Below Love Tokens by Dimas Sanchez Moradiellos:

Engraved on Spanish coin,
      nickel composition.
                Initials: P A              Initials: D S M             Jeweled love token.


Below Love Tokens by Carrie Ann Benson:

 Great Britain Churchill crown.         Hunting dog on nickel.  “Twofaced” engraved on nickel.     Skull with scolloped border.


Below Love Tokens by Tim Wolf from Belgium:

LT Tim Wolfe LT T. Wolf LT Tim Wolf  
         1964 Kennedy half dollar with
           24K gold inlay and zircons.
 Buffalo nickel with gold and copper inlay.       1964 Kennedy half dollar with 24K
         gold inlay and black diamonds.




Modern Hobo Nickels by Various Artists

 By John Carter
Hobo nickel folk artist
 By Robert Morris
Jewelry designer/sculptor
 By Robert Shamey
Jewelry designer/miniaturist
 By Stephen Cox
Professional engraver
hobo OC elf  
By Howard Thomas
Scrimshaw artist
By Owen Covert
Prolific carver
By Mike Pezak folk artist
Known for deep carving
By Sam Alfano 
Master engraver
hobo schipp squirrel   
By master engraver Ron Landis
Very high relief on Cupid
By Cliff Craft, now deceased
Train is from a model train set
 By John Schipp
Whimsical engraver
By Bob Finlay, design similar to Victorian postcard theme 
  Hobo alex ostrogradsky mine  
By Ralph Perrico  By Ray Cover Jr. 
Professional gun engraver
By Alex Ostrogradsky 
Ukrainian engraver
By Aleksey Saburov 
Lithuanian engraver
hobo Dave Boulay  Hobo Dimas Sanchez hobo steve adams 
By Dave Boulay  By Dimas Sanchez By Alan Chernomashentsev
“The Green Mobile”
By Steve Adams 
hobo skull larry foster hobo big head Joey hobo Joe Paonessa elephant hobo JD woman minotaur
By Larry Foster By Joey Blaylock By Joe Paonessa By JD Sharum
 hobo Marcus Hunt hobo bill zach columbian  hobo clad article Gedi inlay   hobo pictorial silhouette Amy A.
By Marcus Hunt  By Bill “Zach” Jameson  By Gedi Palsis  By Amy Armstrong 
hobo Tim Wolf mini-man   hobo Carol the Lookout  hobo Keith Pedersen mini-man  hobo mike B
By Tim Wolf  By Carol Bastable  By Keith Pedersen   By Mike Branham
 hobo Villarin horse  hobo train skeleton BW  hobo adam leech skeletons hobo kermit 
 By Elmer Villarin By Ben Wells  By Adam Leech By Andy Gonzales 
hobo clad Howard Thomas half d.  hobo clad Blanca de la Hoz  hobo T Mahr  hobo clad Shaun Hughes IKE dollar 
By Howard Thomas By Blanca de la Hoz  By Tom Mahr  By Shaun Hughes 
 hobo shane Hunter engraver's studio  hobo clad Paolo train CCC  hobo clad Stephan Miles hobo Paul Holbrecht 
By Shane Hunter   By Paolo Curcio By Stephan Miles  By Paul Holbrecht 
 hobo T. Lewis grandmas and cats.  hobo Jon Dake portrait  hobo Dave Knipe hobo Donald Jenkins 
By Tony Lewis  By Jon Dake   By Dave Knipe  By Donald Jenkins 
hobo Lee Griffiths   hobo Don Berry  hobo John Hughey hobo Steve Ellsworth 
By Lee Griffiths By Don Berry By John Hughey By Steve Ellsworth
 hobo Al Garr  hobo Eric Truitt  Hobo Le frog  hobo Christian DeCamillas
By Al Garr   By Eric Truitt By Hoang Le  By Christian DeCamillas 


For more images and history on Hobo nickels go to: 
 To see a comprehensive library of modern hobo nickels visit: