Tom Kays submitted this interesting article inspired by a social media discussion of cents wrapped in aluminum foil. Thanks!
Curses, Foiled Again?
During a recent shopping trip to the local antique mall, a shopper was perplexed to see a half-pint
mason jar full of foil-wrapped Lincoln Memorial cents. The tag read
Foil Wrapped Pennies in Jar - $10.
The shopper photographed this strange treasure hoard and posted pictures on social media with the
Is there any reason why someone would wrap pennies in aluminum? Thanks in advance!
Social media being what it is, many comments soon rained down in response. Here are some of the
most apropos, plus others worthy of emoji awards.
Any chance they are made of chocolate?
One respondent says they keep all their pennies in foil. I thought it was normal. Make sure to
leave the shiny side out.
It is so ‘they' can't listen to Abe Lincoln's thoughts…No, everyone knows Abe must wear a foil
pyramid hat for that. [Editor]
This is a
dastardly shop keeper trick to sell a $3 jar for $10 by throwing in a half-dollars-worth
of foil-wrapped pennies. Now it becomes a
curiosity. Another says
My curiosity would make
me buy it. Maybe they are all proof cents. Maybe, but it will cost you ten dollars to find out.
One Armenian family member confesses they bake a holiday roll for New Year's Eve, and inside
is a lucky penny, wrapped in foil, that brings good luck for the upcoming year to whoever gets
Did you have good luck in those years you found the penny?
Well, not choking to
death on the penny was nice.
A New Jersey family tradition is to bake foil-wrapped coins in cakes. Mom always made the
special Birthday person get the largest denomination coin, with the rest of the slices holding
random change. Sometimes she baked in a button as a gag, wrapped in foil.
From another respondent: Eastern European Easter puddings also hold coins wrapped in foil.
Find a dime-size silver and you will be rich, find a penny and you will be poor, find a button and
you will be alone in the coming year. This is some serious old-world fortune-telling so don't
tempt the fates and scoff at the whammy. Eat your pudding!
One curmudgeon wrote that people used to wrap pennies in lots of things back in the day. Foil
was popular, or colorful paper from the local Five & Dime. In olden times folks would hang
penny bags on their belts so whenever you wanted to have a chat with a stranger you had to
reach into your penny pouch, give a wrapped coin to the fella and say
A penny for your
thoughts. Kids today don't know nothing due to all the video games and rap music.
Another says I inherited my grandpa's coin collection and heard his Mom used to wrap pennies
in paper envelopes for storage. The envelopes were useful to organize coins. I think in the
1950s that envelope materials contained lots of weird chemicals, so the foil was meant to
protect the coins from Sulphur and other contaminants in the paper envelopes. These may have
been dumped out of their envelopes.
Another read about metal casting as a kid and tried experiments of pressing the obverse of a
coin into aluminum foil to make an impression of the design. They dripped candle wax into the
mold, but unfortunately hit the carpet as well, getting in trouble for playing with fire in the
house and ruining the carpet. End of experiment.
Another wrote that wrapping coins in foil protects them from abrasion and tarnish through
alchemy. They read in 1964, a recommendation to wrap your coins in lead or aluminum foil.
The foil should act as a
sacrificial anode sacrificing itself to corrode first, before the more
noble metals in contact with the foil.
A quick search through the Newman Numismatic Portal quickly confirmed (at least a little bit) some of
the origins of these folkloric remembrances of the public. Search the Portal for the term
Foil and you find:
Question in the ANA Numismatist of January 1993, Page 130,
I have a book on coin
preservation that was published in 1964. It states that aluminum foil gives no real physical
problems when properly employed and that it can be used quite liberally. Given this
information, I placed a layer of aluminum foil between my coins and the cardboard of my album
for protection. The coins that were in contact with the foil developed corrosion within three
years. Other coins in the same album that were covered on both sides with household plastic
wrap before being placed in aluminum foil were unharmed, but the cardboard and foil showed
evidence of corrosion. The upshot of the ANA answer is that having seen many foil-wrapped
rolls of coins from the 1960s, that aluminum foil traps moisture and is unsuitable for use in
Advertisement in the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine of April 20, 1948, Page 91,
coins in pure Aluminum foil and you can forget tarnish worries. It is free from Sulphur or other
impurities. It forms an x 12
airtight package and gives your coins complete protection. Pure
aluminum foil is economical too. A roll or 600
will wrap 900 small coins and costs only
$1.00 Postpaid. Order a roll today and give your coins the protection that they have always
Coin World of April 15, 1964, Page 85,
Philadelphian Outlines Method of Making Impressions of
Coins and Other Items – Quality Aluminum foil copies prove durable by James C. Wobensmith –
There has always been a desire for an accurate method of transmitting information relative to
coins, tokens, and medals which would eliminate long descriptions and which would enable the
person addressed to judge for himself as to the condition of a specimen which is being offered
for sale, trade, or identification…
The E-Sylum readership wants to hear about your experiences with coins and foil. Tell us what
numismatic foil experiments you conducted, if you still have foil-wrapped coins from olden days, and if you ever bit the lucky coin in the cake. In conclusion here is an Ode to Aluminum Foil:
The stuff of baker's dreams, once smooth and wide, bending backwards and forwards, a shining
armor and silvery besides; Its jagged ends like the edges of one's heart; point at those who tear it
apart, roasted and toasted, pierced and unbridled, tossed in the garbage, better yet, recycled.
So - can anyone help? What do you know about coins and foil?
References: Reddit r/coins u/HippieSauce on 1/16/2023 at:
Spotted at my local antique store. Is there a reason why someone would wrap pennies in aluminum? Thanks in advance!
Wayne Homren, Editor
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