USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘lucky penny’
Contagious
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Lucky Penny

Main Piece

AO: “Growing up, I was always told that finding a penny face up was good luck.”

Collector: “Do you still believe it?”

AO: “I’d like to think I do. I still get a smile on my face when I come across a penny on the ground.”

Collector: “Is there any bad luck associated with finding it with the tales facing you?”

AO: “I never though so…it’s more so that it is just regular, or doesn’t possess the same magic. It does not have any affect on you, negative or positive.”

Collector: “Do you know of any other coins being good luck?”

AO: “No, but I think finding money in general is a good sign of fortune coming your way. In the US at least, the penny is the only one that is really associated with the good luck motif, though.”

Analysis

Finding money without an owner in public is clearly a fortunate encounter. Pennies, being the least valuable of American currency, have probably come to mean good luck because they are the most common, but also the hardest to spot. The face of the penny being Abraham Lincoln probably also plays a large part into why the coin is associated with this belief, with the president considered by many as the most influential and often considered a favorite.

Material
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Lucky Penny

So this is a team ritual for the St. Champion Outlaws, my old cheer team:

Every year before Nationals, we would get a penny of that year… our coach would give us a brand new penny of that year and the coach would get it done and like drill 2 holes in the side. And we would unlace our shoes and put it on the top of our right shoe (demonstrates to the front part) so you can see it… so imagine your shoes are laced, it’s on the top right of your shoe. So, we always prayed before we’d go on for health and safety on the floor and we’d all put our right foot in, which is the foot with the lucky penny.

How long has this been a team tradition?

I know it’s been for years… maybe a parent or one of the coaches thought it was cute. I think originally it was a penny on a necklace, but then they realized you can’t wear jewelry for competitions, so we laced it in our shoes. It’s like a lucky penny.

Why do you think they’ve kept it going all these years?

Um…it’s just a good luck thing and then it became a superstitious tradition.

Context:

My roommate told me this tradition when I asked her if she had any folklore. At first, she insisted “Asian people don’t have that.” But, after I explained what folklore was and that rituals and superstition counts. She told it to me one-on-one and I already knew competitive cheer was a huge part of her life.

Thoughts: 

A physical reminder before the competition of all the work put into the year serves as an important ritual. It clearly meant a lot to her and I know she is still in contact with her teammates and coaches. Plus, it is a great souvenir for after Nationals.

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