"Find a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck." Anyone else chant this little rhyme to yourself whenever you find a stray penny on the sidewalk?
More often than I’d like to admit, I find pennies in my dryer after doing a load of laundry, dumped there from pants pockets after I’d totally forgotten that I picked up a coin from the sidewalk. Should I still be doing this, knowing that I’m destined to have a good, lucky day as long as I have a piece of dirty change on my person?
Meh, who knows.
Ancient folklore used to assert that metals were gifts from the gods, so if you found a random piece of copper laying around, you’d been touched by the divine. It was believed that you were being protected from some unseen evil. What luck! When all you have to do to prevent some petty tragedy is pick up a penny, why not, right?
But there’s a caveat. If the penny isn’t heads-up, no deal! When you do find a tails-up penny, you should actually flip it over for the next person, so they can scoop up a bit of luck. (Plus, the karma probably doesn’t hurt.) We’re all a little less cavalier about our hygiene these days, but it’s the thought that counts!
In any case, only a heads-up penny is considered lucky, the reason being that heads represent "good" while tails represents "evil" -- at least, that’s how coins were regarded back in the day. No reason to risk it, though; keep that tails-up penny right where you found it.
This all also explains why brides are said to hold onto a penny (something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue...and a penny in the shoe) on their wedding day. May as well take all the luck you can get to bring along for the rest of your life! The rhyme used to replace "penny" with "sixpence," though, so you’re probably in the clear if you don’t want to walk around with a coin in your stilettos all night.