While some coins “become” lucky, others are “born” lucky!
Coins have been associated with fortune and fate ever since the world’s first “coin flip” determined a choice or a winner – and that likely took place over 2,500 years ago. The practice of flipping a coin to make a decision may be why coinage since ancient times has featured a different design on each side. And who through the ages hasn’t flipped a coin on occasion to make a tough choice!
Besides this general association with fate, some coins themselves are considered lucky by their owners – kept in a special place, carried in a wallet or purse, and viewed or touched with reverence. Some of these coins are deemed lucky because of their design, denomination, place of origin or other trait, while others are considered lucky only in certain circumstances.
Five ways a coin can “become lucky”
“Find a penny, pick it up…”
- The practice of picking up a penny for good fortune has endured through history with the familiar saying: Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. But many people believe you’ll enjoy good fortune only if a penny is found “heads side up” – that a penny found “tails side up” will bring bad luck and should be left alone. Such fatalistic thinking dates to ancient times, when people believed that everything was controlled by competing forces of good and evil.
- It has long been considered good luck to carry a coin from your birth year or another milestone date such as a graduation or marriage – and to give coins to friends or loved ones from important years in their lives (you’ll find date-by-date listings for U.S. coins in our extensive inventory of cents, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars).
- For over a century, brides in Great Britain and around the world have prepared their wedding attire according to a famous Victorian rhyme: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a lucky sixpence in your shoe. Placing an old British sixpence in the bride’s left shoe is believed to bring marital bliss, wealth and good fortune to any marriage.
Money washing at Zeniarai Benten Kamakura
- Sailors and shipbuilders since the Roman Empire have placed silver coins beneath ship masts during construction – to provide protection from the wrath of the sea gods and ensure smooth sailing. And during the Middle Ages, Celtic peoples believed that silver coins should be jingled or turned over during a full moon to prevent bad luck.
- A Shinto shrine in Japan known as Zeniarai Benten is a popular tourist attraction with a spring in a cave that is believed will multiply any coins washed in its waters!
Five types of coins considered lucky from the start
- In several cultures around the world, any coins with round or square center holes are associated with good fortune.
- Many Chinese “cash coins,” struck by various dynasties for centuries, are round with a square hole in the center – so they could be strung together to represent higher denominations as well as for easy transport. Representing both heaven (the circle) and earth (the square), these Chinese coins are considered especially lucky and are believed to bring prosperity to those who possess them.
- Silver and gold coins depicting angels have been considered “good luck” pieces for centuries. France’s 20 Francs Gold Angel of 1871-1898, depicting the guardian angel of the French Revolution, is coveted for the good fortune it’s said to bring to its owner – as is Mexico’s 1 oz. Silver Libertad featuring the revered Angel of Independence statue in Mexico City.
Palau’s sterling silver 2015 Four-Leaf Clover $5 Proof
- If you want some “Luck ‘o the Irish,” Ireland’s pre-Euro coinage has long been considered to be lucky.
- Lucky symbols and engravings on coins are also believed to bring good fortune, such as Palau’s sterling silver 2015 Four-Leaf Clover $5 Proof – featuring a genuine four-leaf clover sealed within the reverse and surrounded by a good luck inscription.
Any coin can become your “good luck” piece
With the vast variety of designs and images on U.S., world and ancient coins, people are simply drawn to certain motifs – and those favorite coins may become their lucky pieces. Because they’re durable, easy to take with you wherever you go, and handy to view or touch, coins have been carried and coveted for centuries as amulets or talismans.
Do you have a particular coin or type of coin that you consider lucky? Why not share your special issue with other collectors – you might be surprised how many others have a “good luck” coin tucked away in a wallet, purse or hiding place!