Find a penny, Pick it up

Since my childhood, I’ve always heard the little rhyme :

Find a Penny
Pick it up
And all the day
You’ll have good luck.

But then I’m about to do it the other day since I need all the luck I can get when my daughter says “Better look at it first. If it’s tails, you’ll have bad luck.”

Now, I had never heard anything about this; nothing in the original poem says anything about there being any cessation of luck depending on whether the penny has landed on either heads or tails. It merely says

Find a Penny
Pick it up
And all the day
You’ll have good luck.

Did I miss a memo somewhere?

i seem to remember the “heads up only” rule from when i was a kid.

I don’t remember hearing anything about the head’s up rule… I only remember the second part of the poem

Find a penny
Leave it lay
You’ll have bad luck
All the day

I’ve never heard of the heads up version.

I’ve heard of the heads-up rule.

You’re all crazy. I don’t know why I bother with you. The rhyme involves PINS, not pennies.

*See a pin and
Pick it up,
All the day
You’ll have good luck.

See a pin and
Leave it lay,
You’ll have bad luck
All that day.*

It IS good luck to pick up a penny, especially heads up, but there’s no rhyme involved in it.

Haven’t heard of any of this stuff, but I occasionally pick up coins.

I also heard of the heads up rule, however not until after my young childhood. I pick up a penny whenever I find one, they do add up.

Yup, I’ve heard the “heads up only” rule.

Find a penny
Pick it up
And all the day
You’ll have to fuck

(at least that’s the way I heard it)


Yep, I’ve heard of the heads up rule too. If you pick up one that’s tails up, you’re meant to give it to somebody else as soon as you can.

There’s a similar thing with pins as well; good luck to pick one up, but bad luck if it’s bent.

I’m the Ukulele Ike here. Definitely pins. Of course the opinions of all other mods / admins are also 100% correct.

I would pick it up no matter what side was facing up, in fact I pick up all change I see on the ground. (A friend and I want to get a metal detector, and we don’t have jobs.)

I’m with mudshark. If I had Bill Gates’ money I’d still pick up any change lying around. It goes in the change jar every night and come July it’s wrapped up and cashed in. Generally comes to about $175 or so.

I thought it was

See a penny
Pick it up
All day long
You’ll have good luck

I think Cecil needs to devote a few columns to this.


The heads up rule is real and serious. I always follow it. You have to keep in mind that the rhyme is only meant to paraphrase the actual rule. It is not the complete rule itself. I don’t want to get into all of the complexities and technicalities of found penny law, but it should suffice to say that your daughter is correct. Picking up a tails up penny is much worse than leaving the penny alone. There is some debate as to whether you can pick the tails up penny and quickly throw it until it lands heads but it is not clear whether this actually counts as a heads up found penny or if it is simply cheating. I have tried this strategy several times with mixed results so it is indeterminate at this time.

Here’s a possible connection to the heads-up/heads-down penny dichotomy, which just so happens to reinforce my “pin” claim.

– from Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic and Folklore (Columbia University Press, 1947; reprinted Dover Publications, 1964):

**When you find a pin in the road, never fail to pick it up:

See a pin, pick it up,
All day long, good luck;
See a pin, leave it lay;
Have bad luck all day.

Another view is that if the head of the pin is toward the finder he will have good luck, but if the point is toward him it means that he has a dangerous enemy to contend with.**

Nothing at all in the book about pennies – in the backcountry hills and hollers during the first half of the 20th century, you sure as heck picked up every loose penny you saw, luck or no luck – except the following:

Wearing a green penny in a sack round the neck is supposed to prevent ‘lung trouble’ – which usually means tuberculosis.

You’re ALL wrong. This is the REAL version:

Find a penny,
Pick it up,
If it’s heads you’ll have good luck.

If it’s tails,
You will die,
You might even start to cry.

Sheesh, I thought everyone knew that.

I’ve always heard the head’s up rule too, but I lost all faith in that when I was in high school. We were out at football practice when I saw a penny on the ground head’s up. “Ooh, good luck!” thought I. I picked it up and having no pockets on my uniform, put it in my shoe. A few plays later, I stood my opponent up, saw the ball carrier and shuffled down the line to plug the hole and make a tackle. The guy next to me had a little more trouble with his counter part and was knocked down. At about the same time, the ball carrier saw me coming down the line and lowered his head anticipating the impact. Unfortunately the only thing that made it into the hole to block his way was my arm which the top of his helmet hit just below the elbow. I had no idea that dislocations were so loud. :eek:

I was telling a verrrry superstitious friend about this a few years later when he chided me for picking up a tail’s up penny. His response was “imagine what would have happened if you didn’t have the good luck from that penny”. :rolleyes: