The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 4, January 22, 2023, Article 24


Foil-wrapped pennies

Tom Kays submitted this interesting article inspired by a social media discussion of cents wrapped in aluminum foil. Thanks! -Editor

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 question: 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 the penny. 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 Aluminum 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 humid climates.
  • Advertisement in the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine of April 20, 1948, Page 91, Wrap your coins in pure Aluminum foil and you can forget tarnish worries. It is free from Sulphur or other impurities. It forms an airtight package and gives your coins complete protection. Pure aluminum foil is economical too. A roll or 600 x 12 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 needed.
  • 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? -Editor

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! (

Garrett Mid-American E-Sylum ad08c

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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