Heads or tails? Call a side and flip a coin. Then the winner gets the prize. If only all of life’s decisions were so very simple as they can be on Flip a Coin Day!
History of Flip a Coin Day
Metal coins have been around since the 7th century BC or so and at the time these coins were typically made of gold or silver. So the practice of flipping a coin, or performing a coin toss, to make a decision can be traced all the way back to the Roman Empire.
Of course, at that time instead of “heads or tails” people might have called “heads or ships” because the coins often had the head of the emperor on one side and a picture of a ship on another. The phrase “heads or tails” probably didn’t come around until the late 17th century, which has been attributed to Thomas Otway, an English dramatist.
In modern times, the idea of a coin toss is often used in many sporting events, like football games, tennis or cricket, where the coin toss is significant to see who gets the advantage of going first.
As a game of chance, flipping a coin is actually related to the discipline of mathematics in that it depends on probability and statistics. While most people assume that the coin toss would typically come out at exactly 50%, this is not always the case. If a coin is tossed ten times, it is likely to come out 60/40. But when it is tossed 100 times, the percentage is more like 57%. And 1000 tosses of a coin will render something closer to 54%. So the more times spent flipping a coin, the more likely it is that the results will be equally distributed.
Flip a Coin Day got its start as a way to honor the practice and tradition of flipping a coin in order to make a decision, no matter how important or trivial!
How to Celebrate Flip a Coin Day
Looking for ideas on how to get involved with and celebrate Flip a Coin Day? Check out some of these ideas and activities to have some fun with the day:
Visit a US Mint
One superb way to celebrate Flip a Coin Day might be to show appreciation for coins by seeing how and where they are made. In the United States, there are four official cities that house mints which hold the responsibility for printing the paper money as well as minting the coins that will then go into circulation as financial currency.
Pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, fifty cent pieces and one dollar coins are all made at these mints and then put into circulation in banks throughout the country. Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver and West Point are the four places in the US where millions of dollars worth of coins are produced every single day!
Learn About Famous Coin Tosses
While some people may think that flipping a coin is just over trivial things that don’t amount to much, many very important decisions in history have actually come down to the fate of a coin. In honor of Flip a Coin Day, check out some of these most famous coin tosses:
Orville and Wilbur Wright
With everything else being equal, in 1903, these two brothers famously tossed a coin to determine who would be the one to attempt the first manned airborne flight. Wilbur actually won the flip but couldn’t keep the plane in the air so three days later, Orville tried and succeeded!
With this area originally called “The Clearing”, two New Englanders in 1845 couldn’t agree upon a name for the town so they chose to flip a coin – a copper one-cent piece to be exact. The winner was Francis Pettygrove who had come from Portland, Maine and the coin still remains in a museum where it is called the “Portland Penny”.
Ritchie Valens’ Plane Seat
With only one empty seat on a plane but two musicians vying for it, the flip of a coin was used to decide between Ritchie Valens and Tommy Allsup. Valens got the seat but, sadly, the plane crashed and there were no survivors.
Because of some strange procedures in the state of Iowa, a dead heat between Democratic party candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders brought things down to some coin tosses for the 2016 presidential campaign. Clinton won all six coin flips.
Have a Coin Flipping Competition
Pick up a nickel or a quarter and just start flipping in celebration of Flip a Coin Day! Those who are on their own can simply see how many heads or tails in a row it’s possible to get. Or, grab a family member or friend and have a competition with two different coins to see how possible it is to get several heads or tails in a row.
Use flipping a coin to decide where to eat, what show to watch on television, which route to take when going to and from school or a myriad of other decisions. Everything can be left up to ‘fate’, or probability, when it comes to this day.
Make a Playlist for Flip a Coin Day
Every celebration is better when there is music and Flip A Coin Day is no different. Have some fun on this day by creating a little sound track to go along with the theme of a coin toss or flip. Get on Spotify, Apple Music or some other platform and become the DJ who can get creative with the tunes. Check out some of these songs that features coins to get started with:
- Pennies From Heaven by Bing Crosby (1936)
- Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares by Travis Tritt (1991)
- On the Flip of a Coin by The Streets (2008)
- The Nickel Song by Melanie (1971)
Start a Coin Collection
While the practice of a coin collection may have gone by the wayside since much less cash is used these days, collecting coins can still be a very cool hobby. This can certainly be done through money that is already in circulation, but many times the more rare coins can be discovered in unique and interesting places. Estates sales, hobby shops, pawn shops and antique stores might be the types of hole-in-the-wall spots that can be scoured in order to find some rare coins. Of course, starting closer to home by getting permission to check grandma’s attic might be helpful as well!