...And a lucky sixpence in her shoe.
We've all heard this before, but did you ever wonder what it means and where it came from?The something old and something new pay homage to the past and to the present. Something borrowed is a reminder to appreciate family and friends in times of need, and blue is the color representing fidelity. The sixpence is intended to bring good luck and financial prosperity to the marriage.This little poem was born in Victorian England and migrated across the Atlantic where the word "penny" is often substituted for "sixpence." This is an unfortunate alteration since it is actually the silver in the sixpence that makes it lucky!The tradition of using a lucky talisman to ward off evil spirits that were "particularly active" at rites of passage began in the middle ages. At that time, any sort of lucky charm (like a coin) would do. During the 1600's it became customary for the Lord of the Manor to give his bride-to-be a piece of silver as a wedding gift. This was symbolically represented by a sixpence which had come into existence as a silver coin in the 1500's. As time passed, it became a tradition for the bride's family to include a sliver sixpence in the dowry given to the groom. It has also become common to choose a date that has some significance to the bride.My daughter is getting married in one week, and what better gift for her collector/numismatist father to give her than a lucky sixpence to tuck in her shoe!The notion of this gift was planted in my mind many years ago when I read a two-part article in Coin World entitled "The lucky little sixpence." There was no prospective husband on the scene at the time, but I figured I should get on with the task of locating a coin just in case I wasn't around when the big day finally did arrive. The first thing I had to do was determine a date that had some significance.My daughter was born in 1987, but the last sixpence was minted in 1970, and the last silver sixpence was minted in 1946, so finding one minted in her birth year was out of the question. I decided to look for one minted 100 years earlier, since it would be from the time of Queen Victoria herself, and it would also qualify as something old.As it turns out, 1887 was an interesting year for the British sixpence. This was Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee year and to mark that milestone, the Royal Mint produced coins with a special commemorative reverse. Unfortunately, the commemorative reverse did not include the words "six pence." Much like America's 1883 "Racketeer Nickel," unscrupulous individuals found that if they gold plated the new coins; they could pass them off as one of Queen Victoria's special Jubilee gold half sovereigns, which was worth 20 times the value of the sixpence. When the ruse was discovered, the mint quickly withdrew the special sixpence and changed the reverse back to a version of the earlier reverse which clearly displayed the words "SIX PENCE."I couldn't decide which "one" to get, so in 2006 I found a nice example of each and both are pictured below. I introduced my daughter to coin collecting when she was young, and while she did indulge me at the time, her interest waned as she grew. She does remember the story of Josh Tatum and his exploits with the 1883 "No Cents" nickel though, so she appreciates the parallel nature of this pair of 1887 sixpence.This wedding is defiantly putting a crimp in my collecting budget, but I'm sure it will all be worth it in the end.Thanks for reading and wish us luck next weekend!To see old comments for this Journal entry, click here. New comments can be added below.