“Find a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck!”
Everyone knows that saying, right? Even further, you should only pick up a penny if it is heads up. A tails-down cent would be not-so-ironically bad luck. Well, I was going home for lunch last week and as I parked my car and got out, I immediately noticed a penny on the pavement. In less than a half-second, I rationalized that because the penny was tails up, it would be against my better judgment to collect it. I didn’t skip a beat. I just trotted right past it. (I don’t think I’m superstitious, but maybe I’m lying to myself.) Then I got to thinking (because I can’t help myself): what makes a penny lucky, let alone a heads-up penny?
Like everything, I gave it some serious thought. I decided that there are basically two schools of thought when it comes to penny-picker-uppers. There are those who believe in their implied good fortune, and then there are those who do not.
Don’t believe in luck? Then you really only have to ask yourself one question: Is your lumbar workout worth one cent? If it is, then by all means, get to bending. If not, then leave it for the next passer by.
I believe you make your own luck. In other words, if you think rabbits’ feet and pennies are lucky, then in your own mind, they are good fortune. Pick that penny up! Heck, you could even pay it forward by passing it on to someone else.
That answers the most basic question. Pennies are only lucky if you think they are. But what’s the story behind them? And what makes the obverse side of this coin lucky and reverse not? It’s actually mildly interesting.
Metal was originally considered a gift from the Gods (Gods, meaning those of the Greeks and Romans). Metal was (and is) extremely useful for making both weapons and armor. Bare flesh doesn’t do so well against a sharpened iron spear. Not now, and not thousands of years ago. So, if you were an ancient Roman walking along one of those famous roads of yours and you just happened to stumble upon some metal, it would be considered a blessing. A sort of being-smiled-upon by deities. Metal was officially a symbol of luck.
Many currencies around the world began to be made from metals and the charm just stuck. Finding money became lucky. Finally, somewhere along the line, pennies became, well, lucky enough to be considered lucky. As for the heads-up status? It’s still a mystery. Maybe it has to do with Abraham Lincoln smiling at you as you grow one cent richer.
Any other ideas, please share. :)