Is it bad luck to dump my jar of pennies into a Coinstar machine?
We know that the good luck of a found penny comes from the person who lost it. Logically, the fewer pennies one owns, the less the chance of unluckily losing one. Converting a jar of pennies to cash should therefore be luck-neutral or even mildly positive.
However, the Coinstar transaction must be managed with great care. You certainly don’t want to spill any pennies. And you should be sure your penny jar contains only ordinary, negotiable, good-quality coins. The Coinstar machine will filter out and keep any coins it evaluates as non-negotiable funny money. Take your coins to a U.S. machine, for example, and any Canadian or U.K. pennies or Euro cents will be snatched away. The machine will also keep (without compensation) any 1943 U.S. steel cents (actually worth about 50 cents) or any badly damaged or sticky pennies. You will not even know this has happened until your luck turns. You get laid off work, come down with a cold, or drop a good wine glass, and only then will you realize—alas, too late!—that you must have lost a penny inside that Coinstar.
Even after you have successfully emptied your jar of clean, negotiable pennies into the Coinstar machine, you ought not relax your guard until the entire transaction has been completed. If, for example, you deposited five hundred pennies but misplaced your certificate or gift card before cashing it, it may well be argued that you have lost not five dollars (merely annoying) but five hundred pennies (terribly unlucky!).
Given the many risks and unknowns, the Penny Priestess opts for the old-fashioned course of rolling her own coins and taking them directly to the bank.
I am emailing you from the UK. My boss has found a five pence piece stuck to his back gate and wonders if there is any superstitious meaning behind this deed. Can you help?
Unless your employer strongly resembles Queen Elizabeth and the image has been defaced, the intention cannot have been evil. To the Penny Priestess’ knowledge, the traditions of leaving pennies places are all positive and beneficent. Pennies are tossed into fountains and wells to bring luck or grant wishes. Pennies are left at thresholds (a back gate would qualify) to protect the dwelling and its inhabitants from misfortune and malevolent spirits. In the United States, no one has ever considered nickels to be lucky: the coin is always a penny. But, since the old silver sixpence was a lucky coin in English and Irish folklore, a five pence piece might be the modern substitute.
You do not say how the coin was stuck to the gate—whether with glue, a nail or some unidentifiable gunk—or how long it might have been there. Could a previous occupant have fastened it there to protect his garden and residence? Might a tradition-minded friend or family member have thought your employer could use the luck and stuck it there with a bit of gum? Or could a passerby have picked up a gunk-coated coin, not worth keeping, and put it on the gate to get it off his hands? Whatever its origins, the Penny Priestess would advise leaving the coin there, if only as a Penny-Pascal’s Wager: it can’t be doing any harm and might well be doing some good.
I heard somewhere that if you find a penny tails up that you should pick it up, but a heads up was bad luck ... ever heard of that?
This is a novel and somewhat surprising penny heresy. The doctrine of penny/luck dualism more often proclaims that heads-up pennies are lucky whereas tails-up pennies are unlucky. Could it be that these Penny Manichaeists are trying to gull others into picking up all the pennies that they (falsely) believe to be unlucky?
The Penny Priestess has tried to root out this pestilent heresy but to no avail. The major religions have many well-developed strategies to discourage heterodoxy, such as stoning, mutilation, amputation and the ever-popular conflagration or burning at the stake. The Penny Priestess must instead rely on gentle reasoning to persuade her fellow penny believers that all pennies, whether heads or tails up, are holy and good and worthy of veneration, or at least worth picking up.
We are born into this world in a state of original bad luck. Personal merit and hard work are insufficient in themselves to bring us to a state of good luck. (Why else would so many innocent creatures suffer so horribly?) The penny dualists err in failing to recognize that the global burden of bad luck greatly exceeds all the pennies ever minted. Thus the good luck of a found penny (whether heads up or tails up) may be manifested only as a partial cancellation of bad luck. We show our respect for the Penny God and his pennies whenever we remember to reflect that it (whatever it may be) could have been worse.
My friends and I were talking tonight about pennies and their different fables. Most of us were told as children: find a penny pick it up, for the rest of the day you’ll have good luck. I have also heard the story of a penny found means a ghost is thinking of you—heads up it’s a male, tails up it’s female, and the year of the penny has some significance but I cannot remember. Could you help us with the rest of the story?
Well-meaning adults invent such fables to teach their young proper reverence and awe for the unseen forces that protect us from ourselves. No thinking person can doubt that our personal happiness and our very survival depends upon luck, yet the nursery rhyme, “Find a penny, pick it up, And all day long you’ll have good luck,” is an overly concrete simplification.
All found pennies are lucky, but the good fortune they bring is of no constant or knowable duration. We might be happy forever after (unlikely, but we might), or we might have just one brief burst of good luck. Perhaps that momentary delay caused by stooping to pick up and inspect our new-found penny changes the course of events, so that we are preserved from stepping in front of an oncoming truck at the next corner, or just from encountering an unpleasant acquaintance whom we would rather avoid. Nonetheless, that simple nursery rhyme successfully trains children to pick up pennies because they are lucky, as they certainly are.
Many of those same well-meaning adults, determined to ensure their children pick up pennies, embroider the truth further with elaborate fictions about angels in heavens or (in your instance) ghosts depositing those pennies especially for us. The Penny Priestess personally considers that, if the dead may return in spirit and apport objects from one place to another, then surely they would use their powers to communicate matters of greater moment than a greeting card sentiment along the lines of “Uncle Fred—thinking of you” or “Best wishes from Grandma.” The traditional poltergeist activities of knocking books off shelves and swinging creaky doors open and shut have a more respectable spookiness to them.
You might have heard a story claiming that even and odd dates had some special dichotomous meaning—male/female, bad/good luck—but here again we find only a story told to children to teach them respect for the penny. The Penny Priestess firmly believes that the penny’s date, mint mark, and condition are all fraught with hidden signficance—only we are not privileged to know their meaning.
For years I have tried to remember the rest of the ditty of “find a penny pick it up, all that day you’ll have good luck, find a penny let it lay and ....” Might you know the rest of the line?
Also, we have had many guests this past season and have found a penny in the empty drawer saved for guests’ use. Is there some thought about placing a penny in an empty drawer?
The second couplet of that doggerel rhyme is usually the sentimental, “Give a penny to a friend and your luck will never end.” The Penny Priestess has addressed the theological implications of these lines elsewhere. The less common variant you cite ends predictably with “all day long you’ll have bad luck.” The Penny Priestess considers all such good/bad, heads/tails dualities to be poor theology. If you spy a fallen penny and neglect to pick it up, your luck remains just as it was, good, bad or mediocre.
The Penny God does not favor penny extremists, nor does he smile upon the penny-greedy. It may be rational and prudent to let a found penny lie if the penny is lying in a busy road or in an unusually disgusting puddle. You will be no more unlucky than you already were, and the penny may well go to someone whose need is greater than yours. The Penny Priestess would amend the rhyme to the less punitive: “Find a penny, leave it alone, the luck will go to persons unknown.”
Now for your second question: There is an obscure sect of penny worshipers who deliberately place pennies in meaningful locations to bring luck to their endeavors. It is possible some penny-pious guest put the penny in the drawer to bless your home or to bring happiness to their visit. It is equally possible that the penny dropped, unnoticed, out of one guest’s belongings, and all your subsequent visitors were either too respectful of your household luck or too penny-indifferent to pick it up. In any case, a thoughtful host might leave it there, as a small offering of luck to any guest who needs it—a courtesy far greater, to those who might appreciate it, than fresh linens and a comfy bed.
I recently remodeled an upstairs apartment. I found several pennies face down under the baseboard. Does this have a meaning?
The Penny Priestess personally believes that everything has a meaning, not just everything having to do with pennies but absolutely everything—a cloud passing overhead and throwing everything into momentary shadow, a cryptic fragment of overheard conversation, a breeze rippling through a field of grain, the staccato barks of the neighbor’s annoying dog—only the meanings are hidden from us poor befogged and bewildered mortals.
Possibly the previous occupant was careless with pennies and swept them under the baseboards, or played pitch penny against the wall to pass the time and these were the pennies pitched too far. The fact that they are all tails up does seem deliberate, however. As mathematician Ivars Peterson points out, on a random toss the Lincoln penny has a heads-up bias. However the pennies got there, they are assuredly lucky. Perhaps they will bring you a nice, quiet tenant who always pays his rent on time.
After finding a penny, does the luck transfer to me or is it lucky only as long as I physically have the penny with me? If I put the penny in a jar will I still have the luck with me or have I put the luck in the jar with the penny? Is there any certain period of time the penny luck remains with the finder?
Luck is a property only of animate beings; indeed, life may not be possible without it. So, when we say that pennies are lucky, we actually mean that pennies have a special virtue as conductors of luck, carrying it from the penny loser to the penny finder. Once you hold the penny in your grasp, the luck is now yours, providing you do not subsequently lose the penny.
All found pennies are lucky, but how much or how long depends very much upon the intrinsic luckiness of the individual penny loser (how much luck he had to lose) and the penny finder (how much luck he needed to avert disasters headed his way). The penny could be weakly but durably lucky if it came from someone chronically careless with pennies, but went to someone who had been finding a lot of pennies and so had luck to spare. In contrast, the penny could be extremely lucky but only momentarily so if the penny finder was at imminent risk of being run over by a truck or flattened by a piano dropped by careless movers. We can never know just how lucky we are, but we do know that we are a little bit luckier every time we find a penny.
I had three highly unusual things happen to me yesterday. First, I had a borderline heated conflict with a few colleagues. Came home and changed clothes, put on my slippers, walked around the house and felt something weird inside my shoe. Took my left slipper off and found a quarter (25 cents) inside of it. That was the first time in my entire life that I've ever found a coin in a shoe. A short while later I got on the computer and an ex-lover I had not heard from in almost a year IMd me out of the blue. But my question to you is really about the quarter in the slipper. This question may seem silly, but for some reason the three incidents really struck me as being highly odd and even this morning I am still intrigued.
Generally speaking, the Penny Priestess doesn't do quarters—just pennies. However, there is a tradition of placing coins in one's shoes for luck. Tradition does not specify the denomination or species of the coin, but a penny would certainly be more comfortable than a big clunky quarter. The most familiar version of this good luck ritual is the custom of placing a silver coin in a bride's shoe and, yes, often the left shoe is specified.
Do these three events coming together suggest that you should forgive any quarrels or conflicts you might have had with this ex-lover and start seeing him again? The Penny Priestess cannot say: she is not quite that powerful as a seeress; and she doesn't do quarters, just pennies.
First of all, let me say thanks in advance—I can't believe I actually found a source for my penny situation. Who knew there was an actual Princess of Pennies out there, available to make some 'sense' out of the following situation:
So, I work in an office. In my cube area I have a few items of a personal nature—some photos, a chachi or two, and a pile of roughly 18 to 20 pennies, neatly stacked near my computer. My friend and office mate Aimee and I often kid around and play little office games ... unfortunately, I fear she may have taken it too far this time. While inspecting my penny pile, she thought it would be a clever goof to knock them over—scattering pennies everywhere! Here's my question—is it bad luck to smash a stack of pennies that has stayed next to me for years, and to be honest has seemed a guiding beacon and a source of good luck, both professionally and personally? Should I try and re-stack the same pennies, or should I start new with another good luck tower of totem tokens?
For the record, it's Penny Priestess, but to your question. Our Penny Religion is anti-dogmatic and all-accepting. We do not prescribe specific penny rituals and observances. If you feel that your pennies were both individually and collectively lucky, then by all means gather them up and recreate your penny pile. If, however, you believe the luckiness of your penny pile originated in some peculiar alignment of their forces, a sort of penny feng shui, then it may be impossible to reestablish their luckiness, and you must begin anew with a fresh collection of lucky pennies.
In any case, since these pennies have long held such value for you, the Penny Priestess recommends that you gather them up carefully and preserve them. It would be decidedly unlucky to permit any of them to be swept out with the office refuse if it was in your power to retrieve them. However, our Penny God, although rather limited in his powers and also something of a trickster, is a just and loving god. He surely will not punish you for the thoughtless action of another. The bad luck, if any, will belong to your friend Aimee, so it would certainly be in her self-interest to help pick up the pennies and restore them to you.
When I was in the fifth grade in Bayside New York (1963), I was walking to school on a warm day in May with only a handkerchief in my pants pocket. I was alone and no one was near me. Suddenly I heard a penny drop right in front of me, and looked around to where it might've dropped from, but there was nothing around me. It didn't drop at an angle as well—it literally appeared to fall from the sky. I picked it up and placed it in my pocket. Then in rapid succession, the same phenomenon occurred two more times. The pocket with the handkerchief now contained three pennies.
I checked for holes in my pants pockets, but alas there were none, and too frightened by this mysterious occurrence, I never shared it with anyone, nor attempted to explain it. Forty-six years later, priestess ... I place it in your hands.
The Penny Priestess has heard before from people who say that pennies appear from nowhere to land at their feet, or in their shoes beside the bed at night, or plop right into their water glass (really). Usually these miracle penny finders go on to ask if it was a ghost or an angel who left the pennies for them. The Penny Priestess doesn't believe in ghosts or angels: she believes in lucky pennies. And she hasn't the slightest notion why pennies suddenly appear (or disappear), although she has speculated elsewhere on the whereabouts of lost objects. The Penny Priestess feels certain, however, that these strange out-of-nowhere pennies are extremely lucky.
The Penny Priestess is sorry she cannot give you an answer for your penny mystery, but she hopes the past forty-six years have been mostly lucky for you, or at least not as unlucky as they might have been without the marvelous finding of the three pennies.
I am writing from Indonesia and we don't use the penny here, but we do have money in token coin form. My first question is: Does the Lucky Penny God also exist here in Indonesia and worldwide?
During the last week I kept on praying to the God to show me the best way I should take, since I am now on my turning point. I told the God that now I am ready to hear or to see any sign from him, beacuse I do believe in synchronicities (meaningful coincidence). Then on Thursday I found a penny (but of course in our money currency rupiah). I felt really lucky, beacuse this is like my prayer has been answered, the God is watching over me. Then I prayed again to the God asking why did he always give me the "100 coin"? If the path I've already chosen is really the best for me, I am begging you ... please give me the "500 coin." Then on Saturday, again I found a penny, but it is not as I am saying in my prayer. I found a "50 coin" not the "500 coin".
My second question is: Is the Lucky God trying to tell me that my decision is wrong because he only gave 50 (and not 500 as I am asking)? Or is the Lucky God laughing at me because I doubt him and try to test him by asking for another penny for assurance?
The Penny Priestess feels certain that the Lucky Penny God is everywhere (or in as many places as he can reasonably be at one time, being not quite omnipresent)—and that his gift of luck resides in all lost-and-found token coins, rupiahs as well as cents and pennies.
By the finding of lucky pennies (or, alternatively, lucky rupiahs), the Lucky Penny God acts to redistribute luck more fairly in our unfair world. But there is only so much he can do, being also not quite omnipotent. He quickly becomes impatient with those who do not recognize that things, however bad they may be, could be much, much, much worse. In other words, he is not always gracious to those who pray for things—if only because it spoils the nice surprise he may have planned for them. The Penny Priestess is therefore inclined to believe that, yes, the god is playing tricks on you.
I had just recently moved in with my boyfriend into a older trailer.We had known the family that had lived there before us. Above the doorways, on the doors, and some hidden spots among the house they had found pennies, and all are face down. I've tried looking up the answers of my questions and all I read is about pennies being found face up instead of down. Is the previous attendant trying to tell me that there are evil spirits in my house? I would greatly appreciate if you give me a answer soon.
The Penny Priestess cannot tell you the intentions or motives of the residents who left the pennies tails up. Perhaps that is simply how they liked their pennies. Maybe a tails-up penny once brought them luck in some crucial venture and they have retained a charming loyalty for the flip side of pennies ever since. Or maybe they just like the Lincoln Memorial. The Penny Priestess can assure you, however, that all found pennies, whether heads or tails, or even propped up on their rims, are lucky. It is always nice to find pennies, and in this regard it cannot matter whether you find them scattered at random across a parking lot or placed strategically (however mysteriously) in your new home.
A lady came by my house yesterday and carefully laid four pennies face down on the sidewalk of each of the four corners of our intersection. Could this be related to the church up the street or something else?
Her act, though surely pious in intention, seems unlikely to be related to any church doctrine or ritual, unless the church up the street is the United Brethren of the Penny God.
The Penny Priestess is often amazed at the creativity and devotion of penny worshippers. Possibly the woman who placed the pennies at your intersection considered it a dangerous crossing and thought she might make it luckier, for herself and others, by her penny placements. It is a kind and pious deed, but the Penny Priestess thinks perhaps too much power has been attributed to pennies. It is still advisable to look both ways before crossing.
Here, recently, everywhere I look there are two pennies. On the floor board of my car, I looked down on the floor in front of my desk at my office, two pennies, on my dresser, where I never put money, two pennies and today, in my drawer at work, two pennies, I put them in my pocket. What’s with the two pennies?
Previously, the Penny Priestess heard from a man in San Francisco who was finding three pennies everywhere he looked. This seemed very lucky indeed, for not only is three a charm, but the Pythagoreans believed three—the triad—to be a sacred and powerful number. Ion of Chios wrote, “All things are three, and nothing more or less; and the virtue of each one of these three is a triad consisting of Intellect, Power, and Chance.”
Now, as it happens, the Pythagoreans took a dim view of the number two—the duad—considering it to be the source of all divisiveness. Yet they also called it “Diversity” and saw it as the source of genius, motion, boldness, fortitude, and femininity. But what did the Pythagoreans really know about pennies? Practically nothing, judging by their surviving writings. The Penny Priestess says simply that all pennies are lucky—two pennies, doubly so.
There may or may not be a personal message in these penny synchronicities. Carl Jung thought that synchronicity, which he also described as “meaningful coincidences,” was evidence for his idea of a collective unconscious, a unifying dream world of symbols and archetypes shared by all humanity. Well, maybe. The Penny Priestess believes that these synchronicities are the work of the trickster gods, who like to scatter coincidences along our way, sometimes to give us a warning or advice, more often just to tease.
Today our car blew up. My fiancée and I are really depressed about it. I closed my laptop, and when I reopened it there was a face up penny inside it when I know there wasn't one there when I closed it. Any idea what this signifies?
First of all, the Penny Priestess would like to thank you for not asking her whether this penny was left by an angel, or whether it means someone in Heaven thinking of you.
The Penny Priestess does not know, quite frankly, why such things happen. Possibly the trickster gods wish to console you; to let you know they care, at least a little; and to remind you that things could always be worse. After all, your laptop is still working, even though laptops are notoriously prone to both sudden death and slow glitch-ridden senility. True, you are now without a car, but you didn't lose it in a horrific car accident. And most important of all, you still have your fiancée, and vice versa.
I'm not sure if you can answer this, but I noticed my front yard bushes were dying, one by one. Everything else around—tree, grass, were fine. I decided to look around the bush/tree and noticed two separate handfuls of pennies were buried!? No one from home did this. Not sure why they were there or how, or what it means!
The Penny Priestess likewise is not sure she can give you an answer, but that hasn't stopped her yet.
There is an old tradition of adding a penny and an aspirin to the water in a vase of cut flowers—possibly from a belief that even plants could do with some good luck and some pain relief, but more likely from a semi-scientific attempt to add essential trace elements back to the water. The Penny Priestess suggests, therefore, that the prior homeowner/gardener might have attempted to amend the soil by planting pennies. If, however, the pennies bear relatively recent dates, so they were clearly buried there after your acquisition of the house and grounds, the Penny Priestess can only make the drab common-sensical suggestion that some neighborhood kid might have hid his/her penny hoard under your tree.
The Penny Priestess is strongly inclined to believe there can be no connection between the buried pennies and the decline and death of your shrubs: First, because she believes pennies are always lucky (unless taken orally by humans or animals). Second, because pennies dated 1982 and later are mostly zinc (with a thin copper coating on the surface), and plants are more likely to suffer from a zinc defiency than from a toxic excess of either zinc or copper.
I am a waitress at a restaurant and I've noticed that sometimes I will receive a penny on the table, after they have tipped me. What does this mean?
Ah! You ask the Penny Priestess a question that she can answer with supreme confidence: It means good luck.
Now, finding such a lucky penny mysteriously left on the table does not mean the next customer will leave you a hundred dollar tip, or that your lottery ticket will have the winning number. Sometimes all the good luck of a lucky penny is expended simply in warding off the bad stuff that was already heading your way. You may be already lucky and not even know it! Just treasure those found pennies and be thankful for all the things in your life that are good and, while you're at it, be thankful as well that the bad things that could be worse aren't.
Do you know of any practice regarding leaving two pennies inside the casket of the recently deceased? A friend recently experienced a loss in the family. A near relative, while viewing the body left two pennies inside of the casket. It is known that the person leaving the pennies identifies herself as Wiccan. Is there an established practice of this sort, and if so what does it imply? The person asking was concerned that it might be negative in some way.
Miss Manners might well think it objectionable, if the permission of the immediate family was not asked, but the Penny Priestess feels reasonably certain that no harm was intended. Leaving pennies on a grave is a fairly common practice, as a token of remembrance with no overt religious connotations. Leaving pennies in a grave is relatively unusual, but who really knows? Most likely, your Wiccan mourner was following the ancient tradition of providing the dead with money to pay their passage into the otherworld. That it was two pennies and not some other number suggests an allusion to the equally ancient custom of placing pennies on the eyes of the deceased.
Are there any anti-Semitic connotations of someone leaving a small handful of pennies on one’s doorstep anonymously?
It is difficult for the Penny Priestess to conceive of the act of leaving pennies on a doorstep as other than a mitzvah, since the luck of the penny leaver redounds to the penny finder. The Penny Priestess has heard from others who felt that they were being teased or stalked by someone leaving pennies for them to find. However, there are (sadly) a multitude of more obvious ways to express hatred, bigotry, or general xenophobia; and it is hard (at least for the Penny Priestess) to see menace or intimidation in a humble penny. Whatever the motive for leaving these pennies at your doorstep, they are still lucky, as all found pennies are. Don’t worry about it—just pick them up.
The Penny Priestess cannot tell you the meaning, which is known only to the Penny God. The significance is that finding a penny is lucky; finding three pennies is thrice lucky, and maybe a bit more, since three is a lucky number. Good things come in threes, as we often hear, and the Pythagoreans in particular thought very highly of the number three. Ion of Chios wrote, “All things are three, and nothing more or less; and the virtue of each one of these three is a triad consisting of Intellect, Power, and Chance.” Just keep on picking up those pennies, whether you find one (unity), two (duality), three (harmony) or any other number of them.
What do you call a person who follows the Penny God as I do? For example, on a profile that has a space for religion (e.g., “Religion: Christianity”), what would I put? The best I can come up with is “Religion: Follower of the Penny God”. Surely there is a more convenient label. Also, do you think I can be a follower of the Penny God (see how unwieldy that is?) and still call myself agnostic? Many thanks from one happy to be one of the Penny God’s chosen ones.
Ah! You ask a question that the Penny Priestess has been asking herself, since for marketing and missionary purposes, a snappy name is essential.
“Tokenite” has a nice ring to it but means nothing to the uninitiated. By the time you are halfway through explaining that Token is the name of the Penny God, who dwells in lost-and-found pennies and endows them with luck, your potential convert is walking away, most likely as rapidly as possible. You might call yourself a Pennyist, a Pennean, or a Pennearian, except then you might be mistaken for a breakaway sect of Pastafarians.
Then again, the standards are not so very high. Most of the so-called mainstream religions are named for doctrinal differences that once seemed worth a martyr’s crown but now are largely irrelevant. The Presbyterians no doubt had an important point to make about the precise role of a priest/minister, but how many of their churchgoers could explain it now? Do Episcopalians ever regret taking a name that suggests they believe in bishops rather than a god or gods? Are Methodists more methodical, and does it matter if they are?
The Penny Priestess notes with interest that some Christian sects (Calvinism/Calvinist, Lutheranism/Lutheran) are named after their principal theologian. It would be a trifle immodest for the Penny Priestess to propose this solution (Penny Priestessism? Penny Priestessist?), and it certainly would not solve the issue you raise of an unwieldy name.
Since the penny religion (unlike all those other religions) is non-dogmatic and all-accepting, we may call ourselves by any name that suits our individual background and beliefs. A high-church Protestant who also believes in pennies might style herself a Pencepalian, while an evangelical type (if those people ever pick up pennies) might proclaim herself to be a Pennycostal. Those a bit out of the mainstream, but still in the Christian tradition, might wish to join the Church of the Latter Day Cents.
Or, if you prefer to avoid any association with traditional big-church religion, you could just say that you are a Penny Deist. Let them figure it out. The Penny Priestess is certain that it is still fine to call yourself an agnostic. Doubt is a form of humility (also intelligence), and the Penny God especially dislikes arrogance and complacency.