2013 was the 100th anniversary of the Buffalo Nickel, minted in the U.S. between 1913 and 1938. The coin, which depicts the head of an native American indian, became an art medium–people took to altering that image, carving bas relief sculptures into the soft metal (apparently, this was a favorite of “hobos” during the Depression, hence the name Hobo Nickel).
Italian jewelry designer, Paolo Curcio, only began carving nickels in 2011 but has since become a prominent artist in this rarefied community of engravers. He uses real coins, which he places in a type of coin vise and then scrapes and shaves with precision tools, sometimes inlaying new metals in between the bas relief. He tells us he can spend up to five days hunched over a coin, not much bigger than his thumb nail. Curcio is especially fond of horror films and science fiction, and his imaginative collection includes the likes of ET, Frankenstein, and a variety of skulls. One customer even commissioned the face of Spock.
See his intricate work in the gallery above.