Close
Image description

What is the History of the Lucky Penny?

May 10th, 2013 Coins

When you see a penny on the ground, you may pick it up for good luck, but do you know why? These days, when you get a penny back at a convenience store, you probably just place it in the "Leave a penny, take a penny" tin and never think about it again. However, you should know that this coin has a rich history - one that may deserve a second look. In honor of National Penny Day, in May, you may want to learn a little more about this lucky coin. 

For example, USA Today states that the penny has been minted since 1787. Originally, the penny was made out of pure copper, until 1837, when it was comprised of bronze instead. Over the years, the coin has been made out of a variety of different metals, until 1982, when it was made out of 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper - which is what it's remained since. 

What is its history?
According to the History Channel, Benjamin Franklin reportedly designed the first American penny. The original cent featured a sun and a sundial above the message, "Mind Your Business," on one side, and a chain with 13 links representing each of the original colonies surrounding the motto, "We Are One," on the reverse. 

In 1909, President Teddy Roosevelt decided to have Abraham Lincoln's face placed on the coin to commemorate the former president's 100th birthday. Interestingly, this was the first American coin to actually have the likeness of a person on it. 

Some might wonder where the term "penny" actually comes from. This word's much older than the coin itself, according to the History Channel. Originally, the word penny and variations of it were meant to describe any sort of coin or money, not just small ones. In 790 A.D., Offa, an Anglo-Saxon king, introduced the first English coin and called it the penny, which has carried over ever since. 

The current design of the penny is known as the "Preservation of the Union," according to Americans for Common Cents. Apparently, it was designed to emulate President Abraham Lincoln's preservation of the U.S. as a single country, rather than allowing the North and South to split up. The coin features a union shield with a scroll across it and an inscription that reads, "One Cent." This particular shield was used often during the Civil War, and dates back to the 1700s. 

Why is it lucky?
Enough about the history of this coin - what you're probably really wondering is, why's it considered lucky? While the exact reason why the penny is considered to be a lucky coin is somewhat unknown, the most commonly held belief comes from ancient times. Back then, people commonly believed that metal was a gift from the gods that was given to them to protect themselves against evil, which is why things made out of metal were considered lucky. This may also explain why people consider horseshoes to be lucky, and some other things that are made out of metal. 

You can find references to lucky pennies in many movies and television shows, each one taking its own spin on this interesting concept. There are some people who believe that they have to pick up every penny they see to try to harness its luck, while others only think that pennies they find that are face-up can bring about luck. Some people simply dismiss the penny altogether, and don't even bother picking one up if it falls out of their own wallet. The real question is - are you a believer?