coins

   The belief reported most regularly about coins is that a holed or bent coin is lucky. The coin with a hole is mentioned from the 1830s to the 1950s. The Poole and Dorsetshire Herald of 11 February 1847 details how a local shopkeeper had kept all holed coins she had received over the counter, in the belief that they were special and should only be used for holy purposes (reprinted in Morsley, 1979: 305). Edward Lovett, collector of First World War beliefs, described meeting a soldier who showed him an old farthing with a hole in it, which he carried as his mascot. Also lucky was a bent coin, such as the 'crooked sixpence' of the nursery rhyme, but this is recorded from a much earlier date, being mentioned (as 'bowed silver' or 'bowed groat', etc.) by playwrights from the 16th century onwards (see Lean), often in the context of a gift, as for example in the description by John Foxe of the martyrdom of Alice Benden at Canterbury, in 1557: 'A shilling also of Philip and Mary she took forth, which her father had bowed and sent her when she was first sent to prison', and similar gifts were reported into the late 19th century (N&Q, 1s:10 (1854), 505). Finucane (1977: 94-5) reports numerous examples of coin-bending in medieval times, in confirmation of a vow, when in danger, as part of a cure, or for general good luck. In each case the bent coin was offered to a saint.
   Most other coin beliefs have been shortlived or at least have escaped being recorded more than once or twice, except in the case of *fishermen who used to cut a slit in one of the cork floats of their nets, reputedly to let Neptune know they were willing to buy the fish they caught, and the widespread practice of placing a coin under the mast of any new boat - 'for luck'.
   See also *gold for the use of gold coins in folk-medicine.
   ■ Lovett, 1925: 13-14, 54-5, 70-1; Opie and Tatem, 1989: 92-3; Lean, 1903: ii. 44-5, 134-5.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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