Money magic: cash trivia from around the globe

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Rachel England

“Find a penny; pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck”.

Everyone’s heard that one, but do you know where this superstition comes from? Some folk reckon it hails from days long, long gone when metal was viewed as a gift from the gods. Others say old metal coins are supposed to ward off evil spirits. However, some naysayers say that stray coins are full of other peoples’ bad luck, and should be avoided.

Then there’s the ‘is it heads-up or tails-up?’ school of thought. Crikey. What happened to the simple delight of finding a bit of cash? Prosperity never goes out of fashion, so money myths, superstitions and folklore have been kicking around forever. Read on to see how you could chance your luck with the money gods…

Old wives’ tales

Burning onion peelings is supposed to bring wealth, unless you end up burning your best pan – or worse, your house down – which will probably leave you out of pocket. Carrying money in separate pockets means your finances will always be disorganised and you’ll be poorer for it.

Give a large silver coin to a six month old child. If he or she is able to hold onto it without dropping it, they’ll be financially set for life. If they drop it, you might want to think about opening a trust fund for them…

Bees buzzing around your head, while potentially dangerous and a bit terrifying, is said to foretell good financial fortune.

Writing with green ink will allegedly keep debt collectors away.

An itchy right palm means money’s on its way. An itchy left palm means financial losses are imminent. An inexplicable rash on your palm, however, means you should go to the doctor…

Ladies should never put their handbag on the ground, lest they undo all their financial achievements so far. Or, more likely, it gets stolen.

Around the world

In China the number eight is considered to be very lucky as its pronunciation is similar to that for the word ‘wealth’. As a result, homes, registration plates and bank accounts with the number eight in are highly sought-after. In China, red (the colour of good luck) envelopes containing money are given at social gatherings. The enclosed amount should always be an even figure (except for funerals, were an odd figure is customary). Chinese coins or feng shui coins (with holes in the centre) should be looped with red ribbon in multiples of three and placed on a desk or in a purse to attract good fortune.

In Russia, it’s customary to take money with the left hand and give with the right. Russian folklore also says it’s bad luck to count money after dark.

In the Caribbean, picking up money from the floor is said to bring bad luck, as it will have money woes attached to it. In Greece it’s believed that money attracts money, which is why a wallet or bank account there is never rarely left completely empty.

In the Ukraine, money is traditionally pinned to a bride’s wedding dress, and in Hungary it is put in her shoes in exchange for a dance. Wonder what the groom makes of that… In Japan, snakes are a symbol of wealth and good fortune, so many Japanese people pop a piece of snakeskin in their wallet. Or, you could just buy a snakeskin wallet and save on the ‘ick’ factor.

According to feng shui, adding splashes of green to places that you normally keep money will help keep your finances flourishing. Alternatively, a jade ring – worn on the right hand for ladies and the left for men – will keep the money rolling in.

Hindus pray to the Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, on the first day of Diwali celebrations for a financial boost. In Japan, businessmen flock to the Imamiya-Ebisu shrine in Osaka to pray for good fortune from the patron saint of wealth, Ebisu.

A few facts for the pub

Money’s not actually made from paper, but a special blend of linen and cotton.

The average note is designed to withstand 4000 folds in each direction before it tears.

A stack of one million $1 bills would measure 110m high and weigh one tonne.

There are currently 181 different currencies in the world.

The largest denomination bill ever was the Milliard Hungarian Pengő: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, from 1946, which was worth about 12 pence.

The largest monetary note hails from the Philippines, where a 100,000 Piso bill is the same size as legal paper. Inconvenient.

In Japan, Hitatchi ATM machines will launder your money by briefly pressing the notes between rollers at a high temperature before dispatching it. Mmm, fresh.