Tag Archives: Penny

Pennies from Heaven

Context: Pennies are a form of American currency equaling 1 cent. Their low value makes them adaptable since people are generally not worried about conserving them. because of this, pennies have also become a common object of folklore-ish discussion.

Background Information: Informant’s grandmother died young, and the informant’s mother and father died when informant was in their twenties. Informant and Informants family are/were Christian and very relationally close to one another. The loss of their family has been very difficult for informant.

Informant: “My mother used to tell me that when my grandmother- her mother- died, that she would send pennies to her as kisses from heaven. Whenever we saw a penny on the side of the street, she would tell me grandma had sent it. When my own mom died, I went to the funeral, and I had paid a parking meter. When I came back to my car, the meter had broken and all these pennies littered the ground. I just bawled and bawled and bawled. Completely broke down crying.”

Thoughts: The presence of pennies is common folklore, and is often perceived as a sign of some sort when found accidentally. Whether or not the parking meter was a coincidence or not, the folklore surrounding the penny stands firm. The penny in this situation connects a member of a family group to the other members, even after death. The folklore is a unifying front, which unifies the member of this group and gives credence to the belief that the members of the group will continue to embody their group identity even after death.

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.

Transcript:

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/.

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.

Respecting the Penny

Title: Respecting the Penny

Category: Proverbial Phrase

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

“ The man that does not respect the Penny, does not deserve the dollar.”

Context/Significance:

The phrase comes from Julianna’s great Uncle and is thought to be an originally German proverb. According to the source, the proverb means: A person should value the little things so that they can appreciate when larger things happen. The phrase implies that a person should be appreciative of all things that happen to them and take nothing for granted.

Personal Thoughts:

This proverbial phrase is something that can be heard when talking about small occurrences in an insignificant way. It can be used as a retort when someone acts inappreciative of something nice that happens to them.

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

Informant: “One thing that I remember my grandfather [S] saying to me multiple times, it was ‘[Informant’s name], a penny saved is a penny earned!’ And, so he grew up in the great depression, and that was some really tough times in America, and he saw all the hard things his parents had to do, and he as a kid had to do, and that caused people in his generation to feel like, if you find a way to save money, you know, not spend money you don’t need to spend, then that’s as good as earning extra money because that meant that you had that much money still available to you. I remember when I was little, we would go to California to visit him, and everyday they would be looking in the newspaper, cutting out coupons, looking for what the deal was, looking at the ads… basically figuring out everything for everything they were going to buy, where they were going to buy it from. If they were going to go out to dinner, they would make their dinner decision based off of who had a special, who had a coupon, who had a discount, those sorts of things, with the mindset of if they were going to spend money, but there’s a way to figure out how to spend less, then that’s just as good as making more money at your jobs. I find that I tend to think in the same way, where if I can figure out a way to spend less money, then it’s just like I just made more money from my job.”

Informant is a middle aged banker who frequently travels internationally on business, and is a father of three. He identifies as ‘American’, although his mother is of Czech heritage. He grew up in Oregon and Washington and currently lives in the Midwestern United States.

Collector Analysis: This particular proverb serves to provide financial advice, in this case the importance of spending money wisely. It is interesting how nowadays this particular proverb has almost a different meaning to it based on the fact that a penny today is considered to be nearly valueless, whereas in the time period where my informant first heard this proverb, pennies were not an insignificant amount of money. In this regard, the proverb may not have aged particularly well, but it is still a valuable piece of advice regardless.