Inspiration: Exclusive Art

From Sketches to Carved Coins

by Hugo Seijas 15

From Sketches to Carved Coins | Doodlers Anonymous

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…


  1. This is awesome!

  2. This is really, really cool. (Though I'll keep him away from my rare coins)

  3. This is, like, one of the coolest things I have ever seen!!! I totally want some of these now! It's cool enough that he can carve a drawing onto a coin, but when you add how awesome his drawings are too- it's just amazing... Once again, I am so happy I found doodlers!

  4. Unbelievable I'd really love 2 learn how 2 do that

  5. holy crap that's wicked! :D

  6. These are all so good. the dwarves with their gold is incredible!

  7. Stunning! The detail is amazing.

  8. Those are so awesome!!!

  9. WOW!!! His nano-work is gorgeous. I thought painting was tedious..holy cow

  10. dont understand how its created but i guess i am not supposed to..........WOW,[multi minds blown]

  11. these are unbelievable! definitely amazing!

  12. amazing, i would love to watch him making one

  13. This is amazing. How much does one of these sell for?

  14. Happy to know him. He\'s a great man just like his art.

  15. John is a very talented carver and he is an inspiration to other carvers. Ebay now has a special section just for hobo nickels and you will find many great examples of this type of art. These hobo nickels are not easy to make and all of these artists deserve a round of applause.

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