The Mystery Ship at Ground Zero and the Tradition of Coins being Good Luck

Last month a ship from the 1700’s was found in the Ground Zero construction site in New York. The ship was probably sunk at the site in an effort to extend the land in Manhattan in the early 19th century. It’s called The Mystery Ship and it’s now being studied at a lab in Maryland. Researchers there have found an old coin (photo below) between keel and stern post. It’s believed it was put there for good luck.

Photo of Coin found in The Mystery Ship at Ground Zero

The practice of putting coins in ships for good luck goes back to ancient Greece. It was a symbol of giving protection money to the spirits to safely cross the seas.

Other superstitions of good luck with coins include:

-In the US, throwing coins on the floor of a new car.
-Coins were put in the headers of doors in old houses in England for good luck. They also used to be hung over doors like horseshoes.
-Throwing a coin in a fountain.
-Burying people with coins on their eyes or in their mouths. It was originally a tradition in ancient Greece to bury people with coins so they would have money to pay the ferry to cross the River Styx to reach the Underworld.
-In Greece today a cake is eaten for the New Year with a coin in it. Whoever gets the coin is supposed to have good luck for the year.
-In China, people collect ancient coins for good luck.
-In Japan, people give coins before praying when they visit shrines for good luck.
-Old coins have been found in the Liri River in Italy from people who threw them in for good luck.

Please let us know about any symbols you know for good luck involving coins in the comments below.


NPR: Unearthed Ship In NYC Offers Clues Of Colonial Life by Jamie Tarabay
The Encyclopedia of Superstitions by Richard Webster
Notes and Queries (1900)
Mock Jōya’s Things Japanese (1985)
Coinage in the Roman economy, 300 B.C. to A.D. 700, Part 700 by Kenneth W. Harl (1996)

This article was posted on Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 at 1:17 pm and is filed under China, Coins for Good Luck, Countries & Cultures, England, Folk Lore, Good Luck, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mama Lisa, Superstitions, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Responses to “The Mystery Ship at Ground Zero and the Tradition of Coins being Good Luck”

  1. Monique Says:

    In France, on Candlemass day (Feb. 2nd) we make crêpes. The popular belief is that you will have money all the year round if you flip the first crêpe holding a Louis d’or and that the crêpe falls back into the frying pan. I’m sorry that I can’t attest the acuracy of the belief… I never possessed such a gold coin!

  2. Cheryl Says:

    Mom said when our Portuguese ancestors migrated they would place a coin in the hole where they planted their Fig Tree for good luck.

  3. Lisa Says:

    That’s a lovely tradition!

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