You’ll do a double take when you see John Schipp’s re-carved coins. It’s okay, we did too, these coins are so insanely detailed you’d swear they’re fake.

It’s obvious you can only get to such a result with tons of patience, dedication and talent, but we were still so curious about the process that I contacted John to clue us in on how he turns coins into amazing art.

Q: I’d love to know how you first got into carving coins from your sketches?

Drawing has always been my favorite hobby. One day working in the jewelry store, I noticed some tools that I had never used. My boss gave me a video tape they had gotten with the machine. When I watched it I was amazed. The people in the video were using the machine to draw on metal! In the beginning I would mill out nickels till they were flat – they made cheap soft practice plates. I would engrave my art on them and turn the good ones into pendants. Eventually I heard of Hobo Nickels. Engravers were carving straight onto the nickel, without flattening them first, and people collected these. Naturally I began carving Hobo Nickels.

Q: Take us through your process. How do you go from sketch to final?

I start by drawing, often spending 2-3 hours sketching out many different ideas. Once I pick my favorite, I will scan it into Adobe Photoshop. Using different programs, I will turn it into a vector image and make changes to the design along the way, because nickel is a round canvas with a couple of obstacles to design around. I use a printer and transparencies to transfer the design to the nickel. From there its all sculpting and drawing.

Q: What’s the average time it takes for you to complete one coin from start to finish?

15-25 hours

Q: What are your top 3 most indispensable tools?

Gravers, microscope, sharpie marker.

Q: What do you do to get into the groove?

Headphones + music or podcasts = oblivious to the world around me.

Q: Who are some of your biggest inspirations from the art world?

From Sam Alfano I have learned there are usually technical reasons and rules to making something look good. At first sight a scroll seems like a basic and simple thing. But you must know the rules to draw great scroll work. From the band Phish I have learned to experiment and improvise; it’s ok to fail. These are the things that will keep your work interesting and evolving. Kyle Burger, GO BIG, bigger than everybody else can imagine, take it further than anybody else would bother. It always impresses the hell out of people!


Amazing. Thanks for the insight John! We’ll be keeping an eye out on your carvings…