Cents And Sensibility

Why we hate the new money.

I was once in a grocery store in Italy, fumbling through a mound of pocket change to pay for my lunch. The old woman at the cash register reached across the counter and pointed helpfully at the elegant brass-inlaid 500-lire coin that I had been saving since early in my trip. No bigger than a quarter, it looked like a penny framed in a silver grommet.

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Hobo Nickels

One of America’s least-known and most curious folk arts


The Buffalo nickel has not been minted for forty-five years, but the popular coin, bison on one side, Indian on the other, is well remembered today. What is less well known, however, is that the nickel served as a medium for a generation of hobo artists who reworked the images to produce a token that might be traded for a meal or a shirt somewhere down the road. Read more »