From giving a coin to represent luck and good fortune to featuring in a bride’s shoe on her wedding day, coins have been steeped in tradition and symbolism for centuries.
Our guide explores the symbolism of coins and uncovers how they’ve often been used for more than a method of payment in cultures around the world. We look at some of the luckiest coins around the world and highlight how coin symbolism has been honoured throughout the ages.
What do coins represent?
If you’re familiar with our guide on the history of coins, you’ll know that they were made for trading in the 5th or 6th century BCE in Lydia. However, more than just currency, coins have been used in alternative ways for centuries.
Most commonly, coins represent fortune, wealth, and luck, and have been incorporated into spiritual and symbolic traditions that are practiced in cultures around the world.
Playing a traditional part in weddings in many cultures, it’s common practice to include coins in ceremonies to mark the special occasion. This is why coins make the perfect anniversary gift, commemorating a moment in time that can be remembered forever.
Whether you believe in superstitions or not, there’s no escaping the symbolism of coins in our everyday lives.
Throughout history, coins have been regarded as lucky talismans. From ancient civilisations believing that metals were gifts from the gods to coins minted in a leap year bringing good fortune, the symbolism of coins is unique. Here, we’ve showcased some of the ‘luckiest’ coins in the world:
- The Mercury Dime
In America, the silver dime is considered to be extremely lucky. The coin was minted from 1916 to 1945 and today, silver dimes minted in leap years are regarded to be even more auspicious. The figure on the dime is the head of liberty, though many believed it resembled the Roman god named Mercury, which is where the silver dime gets its nickname, the Mercury Dime.
- The Silver Sixpence
A well-known symbol of good luck, the British silver sixpence has many connotations associated with fortune. The lucky sixpence appears in the nursery rhyme, ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence,’ as well as being a main accessory on a bride’s wedding day. The rhyme, ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a sixpence for her shoe,’ is a tradition that brides have been honouring for centuries. Typically, the sixpence is worn in the bride’s shoe as she steps into her marriage on her wedding day, symbolic of her luck and fortune. There’s no wonder silver sixpence jewellery makes such a meaningful and symbolic wedding gift.
Not just for weddings, sixpences have also played a large role in Christmas traditions, where hiding a sixpence in the Christmas pudding would bring luck for the New Year to whoever found it in their dessert.
- The Five-Yen Coin
Five yen is ‘go-en’ in Japanese, which means ‘fate,’ or ‘chance.’ These coins are symbols of fortune in Japanese culture, and many believe that with these coins, what’s meant to happen will happen.
The coins are round with a hole in the centre and they date back to 1870 when they were first minted in gold. Five-yen coins are often given for luck during the Japanese New Year and are thought to be an auspicious gift to give inside a wallet before adding any other currency.
- The Irish Penny
The tradition of the lucky penny in Ireland is still observed today and is an age-old tradition originally associated with the trading of farm animals. After the sale, the seller would gift a sum of money for ‘good luck,’ which would traditionally have been a penny.
The lucky Irish Penny tradition has continued into today’s society, where giving a lucky penny to a friend or family member is considered to bring the luck of the Irish. The coin is often gifted at momentous occasions to celebrate events such as a new home, a wedding, or a new baby.
- Cash Coins
Cash coins are commonly known as Chinese lucky coins and are typically used in Feng Shui. Circular in shape with a square hole in the middle, these lucky Chinese coins represent wealth and prosperity and are also used in fortune telling and traditional Chinese medicine.
For use within Feng Shui, cash coins are strung together using red or yellow cord and hung on the wall, often in specific areas of the home to invite positive energy and protection.
These coins were created during different eras of Chinese history, with the most common ones including the Wuchu coin of the Han Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, Song Dynasty, and the Kang Xi coin.
Coin symbolism is prevalent in many cultures around the world, with lots of traditions still honoured today. Coins are referenced in nursery rhymes and songs, and we all know the famous rhyme, ‘find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.’
Dream interpreters also find coins in dreams to be significant and symbolic, commonly associated with wealth and good luck.
Dream coins can be tied to investments, so often if you’re dreaming about coins, it can be a sign that your hard work is paying off, good things are coming and your investments are coming to fruition.
Other traditions that use coins for their meaning and symbolism include:
- Sixpences being sewn into the uniforms of RAF pilots for luck and to make the wings of the badge stand proud
- Coins being made into ‘love tokens’ by soldiers in the war to send home to their loved ones
- Coins being placed on the eyes of the deceased to ensure safe passage into the afterlife.
Whether you believe in coin symbolism or not, there’s no denying the prevalence of coins and the impact their meaning has had throughout history. If you’re looking for the perfect gift to wish someone luck, whether a bride on their wedding day or an anniversary gift commemorating a special occasion, discover our range of coin jewellery and accessories, and find the perfect lucky coin gift.