A pocket piece, also called a carrying piece, is a coin which someone leaves in their pocket for good luck or for sentimental reasons. A pocket piece is meant to be worn every day to bring the wearer good luck!
There’s no exact date for when this idea gained popularity, but historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt were reportedly carrying pocket pieces.
According to GovMint.com, “President Teddy Roosevelt was said to have carried an Athenian Owl coin in his pocket, which in turn inspired him to order the redesign of U.S. coins in the early 1900s.”
Pocket pieces are meant to be shown off and touched. It is a great way to get others interested in coins!
What makes a good pocket piece?
The best pocket piece is the one you like the most! Here are some good ideas to get you started.
1.) Your favorite denomination or type of coin.
This is a good way to show off your favorite type of coin. Although, this could conflict with some of my later advice so keep reading…
2.) Larger, heavier coins are best.
Your carrying piece could be a silver quarter or an Indian Head Penny, but these are more likely to get lost, or even spent on accident!
Large silver dollars like the Morgan or Peace dollar are the most common carrying pieces. The weight of the silver and the size of the coin make it harder to mistake for another coin in your pocket. Plus, it’s a fun coin to show off!
I personally wouldn’t carry around anything smaller than a modern dollar coin. Half-dollar or larger is a good rule of thumb.
3.) Pick an important date or place.
Picking a birth-year of a beloved family member or pet is the most common.
You could also look for years that have some historical or personal significance such as: the end of WW2, your favorite Presidents first year in office, when your favorite show started, etc.
If you live near a US Mint, you could choose a coin that was minted there. For example, I was born in San Francisco in 1998, this would make a 1998S Half Dollar a great carrying piece for me!
Why carry a pocket piece?
Some people believe carrying a pocket piece is a sign of good luck. They may have chosen a mintage date important to them, or it may have been a gift from a beloved family member. All of these help form a special bond between the carrier and the coin they have chosen.
No matter the reason, carrying a coin in your pocket everyday creates a sense of consistency in a person’s life. It may also be good to have an item to keep track of. A pocket piece can remind you of important times in your life.
A pocket piece creates a sense of responsibility for the carrier. It is very difficult to keep a coin in your pocket everyday without losing it or causing unnecessary damage. Many people lose pocket pieces in hotels rooms, at airports, or in laundry machines!
Is keeping a coin in your pocket damaging?
Yes! Carrying a coin in your pocket is bad for the coin. After enough time, the friction inside your pocket wears at the edges of the coin.
It is very easy for collectors to spot coins that have been used as carrying pieces. Here is a Morgan Dollar graded by PCGS that shows the distinctive wear of being a pocket piece:
Notice how the edges have worn down more than the center of the coin. This distinctive wear idicates to numismatists with a keen eye that this coin was likely a pocket piece. (If you want to learn more about PO-1 coins, Click Here!)
This leads me to my last piece of advice for picking a pocket piece:
Don’t use valuable or rare coins!
You may not notice it the first year, but keeping a coin in your pocket is damaging. Besides the friction of your pants wearing down the metal, the oils on your hands will also damage the coin’s surface.
Some people carry graded coins in their pockets because they have a protective case. You could carry a graded coin in your pocket… but that might not be worth the pocket space everyday.