Tag Archives: lucky coin

Coins on the Ground


O is a Pre-med biology major at USC, currently a freshman. O is a Vietnamese American who grew up in Vancouver, Washington — a short drive from Portland, Oregon. 


Me: Do you have anything you collect or do for good luck?

O: Yeah, actually I collect coins. Not just pennies, but like all kinds of coins.

Me: Really? How do you find them?

O: It’s really ridiculous, I just pick them up from the ground and keep them in my pocket, because I think they will bring me good luck.

Me: From the ground?

O: Yeah, they would be lying on the ground while I’m walking and I’ll pick them up, put them in my pockets.

Me: Do you keep the pennies forever?

O: No. I take them out and put them back on the ground once I think I don’t need the luck anymore. Like, the luck can go to someone else. 


O demonstrates some form of sympathetic magic. He connects receiving luck to picking up coins from the ground, both how lucky he is to find the coin and the luck the coin itself gives him. The luck O has that initially gives him the coin is somehow transferred into the coin, where there is some exchange between him and the coin that gives him luck with the penny as a conduit, collecting and releasing luck for anyone to pick up. The idea of quantifying luck or magic seems like contagious/contact magic, where magic or superstition can transfer from one person to the next with the penny is added as a middle man. Keeping the coin is somehow magic that ensures the luck will be sustained in him while giving it away is also magic, ensuring that luck will be passed on to the next person. If luck was the contagion of magic, the coin would be patient zero.

Good Luck Coin

AW is a 19 year old college student. She is an undergraduate computer science major and is from Los Angeles County. She is Chinese American and has lived in LA all of her life.

Context: AW is a good friend of mine, so we sat down after dinner to discuss folklore she picked up across her life. She picked this practice up from her parents.


Collector: You have a thing with coins right?

AW: Ah yes!

Collector: Tell me about it.

AW: Coins, not just pennies, can bring good luck. But only if it is turned on heads. So if I am walking down the street and spot, let’s say, a dime or something. I will only pick it up if it’s on heads. Then it is good luck.

Also if I drop a coin in you guys’ apartment then I leave it there for good luck haha.

Collector: I picked up on that. Whenever we see a coin on the ground we just leave it.

AW: Yes for good fortune!

Thoughts/Analysis: This is a great twist on the typical finding a penny for good luck belief. I had never heard of leaving coins for good luck, only picking them up. I think this shows that both taking and giving money is necessary for good fortune. It might even mean that you cannot take and take without giving. Coins in general being used in this belief rather than just pennies might make someone believe they have more good luck because other coins are more valuable and you are likely to see them more.

For a variation of the lucky coin, see:

Brianna, and Brianna. “Find a Penny, Pick It Up and All Day You’Ll Have Good Luck.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 15, 2021. http://folklore.usc.edu/find-a-penny-pick-it-up-and-all-day-youll-have-good-luck/.

Armenian Foodway – Kyomba

(Some parts of this conversation took place in Armenian and have been translated to English)

Main Piece

Informant: Have you ever heard of Kyomba?

Me: I have yeah my family does it. But I noticed that not many Armenians make it here [in America].

Informant: Yes, I have noticed that too. That’s not good.  

Me: How did you do it in Armenia? Maybe it’s different than how my family does it here.

Lili: Well, every year on January fourth… or was it the fifth… no, sorry, it was the fourth. January fourth. My mom and I bake the Kyomba. It is a pastry filled with ground walnuts and sugar. And in the dough, we hide a 1-dram coin [dram is Armenian currency]. We bake the Kyomba, then we slice it into equal pieces. One for each family member. Whoever gets the coin had good luck for the rest of the year.

Me: Yeah, we do it that way too. But we would also cut a slice for the house. So the house we lived in would also get a piece. Also my grandma and I hid a quarter in the dough because we didn’t have any dram.

Lili: I guess it does the same thing. I’m glad at least somebody makes Kyomba here [in America] too! I didn’t think you would. The best part about this, I think, is just making it. To be honest, it tastes good, but making it is so fun that I don’t really care about the taste.


Kyomba is made every year on January fourth. It is a casual event to bring the family together. The rules governing the Kyomba-making process are not strictly enforced. My informant learned of this tradition from her mother. Kyomba is usually not performed when there was a recent loss of a relative or family member.


During the conversation, my informant revealed that she learned this tradition from her mother. She is fond of this tradition as it results in her spending time with her mother.

My Thoughts

Hearing my informant talk about this tradition and witnessing her excitement when she was explaining it made me realize that many people perform this tradition because it brings the family together. This recipe is many, many centuries old and uses ingredients that would have been relatively cheap and easy to come by. Therefore, my informant and I can conclude that this was a tradition practiced by the lower class. The purpose of the Kyomba tradition is not to bestow a year of luck upon the one who finds the coin, but to bring the family together for the entire year to observe the good (or bad) luck of the winner.