Tag Archives: pennies

Lucky Pennies


L: “So for luck, your godmother [T], from the Massachusetts area, came from somewhat of an Irish background and she had a tradition of throwing pennies. She would throw pennies in everywhere, whether it was your house, whether it was your room, whether it was in a card she closed, whether it was in a car…”

Me: “For a moment I thought you were going to say a fountain.”

L: “She would throw it into a fountain, but she was not limited to fountains. Believe me. You know, drawers, rooms, books. And her tradition, which I believe is an Irish tradition, is that you throw pennies into the area you want so that you are blessed with good luck and good fortune and no lack of money. So basically, it’s a good luck charm. And to this day, you can even verify it with dad that we’ve found pennies in every corner of her townhouse.”


L is my mom. Her close friend, T, who is also my godmother, was of Irish lineage. L learned this tradition from T in her 30s and while T practices this tradition a lot, L did not. When asked why she responded, “Because I had the annoyance of picking them all up.” When asked about interpretations L said T believed placing a penny causes good luck in that area compared to the belief of picking up a penny for good luck on the day it was picked up. T would never pick up a penny she found and considered it bad luck if someone did.


Hearing about this tradition was interesting as I am personally used to the “If you pick a penny up, all the day you’ll have good luck.” This is the opposite with a giving penny tradition. Online there are various traditions about lucky pennies, and many specifically Irish ones too (Some listed here: https://silverbranchheritage.ie/heads-or-harps-penny-traditions/). I can’t find anything exactly like what T did but there are the older traditions of wishing wells and fountain pennies, some where if animals were sold as a market the buyer would give the seller back a penny that would become a lucky penny, and more. Abiding by such a tradition as T’s shows one’s giving nature and some belief in superstitions.

Lucky Penny Magic


“I believe in lucky pennies. I have a bunch right here; I have some in my window. They’re only lucky if you find them heads up. But if I find one that is heads down, I’ll flip it so it’s lucky for the next person.

“Sometimes if I know someone’s having a bad day, or they have an exam and they need some luck, I’ll give them one of my lucky pennies.

“But there have been times when I’ve found a lucky penny, and I’m like, ‘Ok, this is the day that I have to do something ballsy and brave. This is a sign.’ And then it won’t go well. And I’ll be like, ‘The lucky penny magic isn’t real,’ and I’ll swear off lucky pennies. But I never seem to stop myself. I always continue doing it anyway.”

GR said she couldn’t recall an experience when a lucky penny actually gave her good luck. “Unless I have incredibly spectacular, amazing luck, I’ll never recognize good luck. I only really recognize when I’ve had really bad luck.”


GR is a 21 year-old college student from Portland, OR, currently living in Los Angeles. Her grandparents were Irish immigrants.

Lucky penny belief is performed mostly in public spaces where one is likely to have dropped loose change, such as a place of business, a parking lot, or the sidewalk. As a resident of a large urban area, GR often encounters such spaces. It is likely that the frequency of finding lucky pennies influences her belief.


Lucky penny magic reflects the values of American capitalist society, in which money is the main mechanism of upward mobility and survival. Under this system of values, coming into any amount of money by chance is genuinely good luck.

GR’s belief goes further, however, claiming that the pennies are not merely an instance of luck but a token of it, a good luck charm. Lucky penny belief for some is merely a sign superstition, a form of belief that requires no action; one merely encounters a sign of good or bad luck.

However, GR actively takes part in the belief, choosing to collect the lucky pennies, give them to her friends, and flip a heads down penny over for the next person. This action is what makes her belief magic. Specifically, GR believes that lucky pennies are a form of contagious magic in their ability to bring good luck to whoever possesses them.

Additionally, her choice to collect the pennies out of belief that they may bring luck in the future reflects the future-orientation of American culture, as described by folklorist Alan Dundes.