As we enter the holiday shopping season, your list might include the gift of a knife to a friend or loved one. After all, for those who appreciate a good knife, getting one for the holidays will be a welcome surprise.
Of course, you will want to remember certain things when getting your gift, including local laws around knife ownership and what knife best fits the needs of your recipient.
And, for fun, you might want to include a coin with the gift box. Why? Read on.
Gift a Knife: Include a Penny
For reasons historians have not reached a consensus on, somewhere along the line – way back in the line, hundreds (maybe thousands) of years ago – people came to believe that giving a knife as a gift meant bad luck for the relationship.
In another words, the knife would metaphorically “cut” the ties that bind two people. This affect is even worse if the recipient is your significant other – some believe the love will soon end after the knife is given as a gift or that a knife as a wedding gift will severe the bonds of marriage.
No one wants a gift like that!
That’s why, long before rationality and science started replacing superstition, a tradition began in which those who gift a knife also attach a coin to the blade or include it with the gift. Even a penny will do. The receiver of the knife then gives the penny to the gift-giver, thus “paying” them for the knife and keeping the relationship intact.
Sound weird? That’s because it is. But so is throwing salt over your shoulder, not walking under ladders and expecting seven years bad luck when you break a mirror.
The Origin of the Coin Tradition
As with most superstitions, the exact reason – if ever there was one – is lost in the sands of time. But a simple Google search indicates the topic still comes up often, with many knife sellers saying customers frequently ask them about including a penny or other coin with their gift.
The general consensus remains that since a knife has a blade, it can symbolize cutting something. And in more modern times, a penny has always been considered good luck.
Before the penny existed, finding any kind of metal seemed good fortune, like a gift from the gods. So including any kind of coin did the trick with a knife gift.
So in addition to providing the recipient a chance to symbolically buy the blade with a coin, the coin provides good luck to cancel out the bad luck of the knife.
The superstition remains so well known to this day that Masakage, the Japanese knife-maker, includes a five-yen coin in knife boxes.
So should you include a penny or other coin with your knife gift? Well, it is 2016, after all, and a true fan knows that a quality knife is an absolutely fantastic present. A knife gift is not bad luck, it’s just a really good gift to the right person.
Still, if you know the recipient has a superstitious streak – or you just want an opportunity to tell the coin-with-knife story – than go ahead and include one.
It could make your already excellent gift that much more memorable.
A variation on this tradition in Newfoundland is to give the knife stuck blade first into a piece of wood. Works for larger objects to like an axe. Same sort of reasoning, so you won’t cut the friendship or so the recipient won’t cut themselves.
I once gave a switchblade to a good friend as a gift, no coin included. The first time he hit the botton to open it it flipped out of his hand and stabbed into his ankle.
I often gift knives to myself. Never heard of this before…maybe it doesn’t work unless you give it to someone else. Anyway, with one of my “self-gifted” knives I got a little careless with how close I was holding it to my body while flipping it open. Felt a tug and looked down at my shirt. Low and behold there was a neat little slice in the fabric. As I watched in fascination, a single drop of blood oozed out of a meat-slice I didn’t feel. Sharp knife. Stupid operator. Next time a coin, or perhaps leave the blade in the display case.
This works,, have given many knives as gifts with the coin and story.. and in faith the story has kept on goin since with my family.. funny thing is,, I believe it to be true,how I first heard of it I can’t remember. Have a great holiday, always enjoy your family… much love and peace
That’s interesting! Thanks for the feedback. Love and Peace to you and yours!
The penny is used to lay on the sharpening stone flat with the knife blade resting on the penny in the stone to give it 17° angle on both sides of the knife.
Thanks for that info
We were given a gift of a knife set by a visiting chef who had been my husband’s friend since childhood. Within a couple of days he left, saying things were not working out. He didn’t explain, and we’ve never understood, why he severed the friendship. When my MIL found out, she told us, “Knives cut friendships.” I’d never heard that before, but since then I’ve been careful to avoid giving knives as gifts. However, a close relative is in need of good knives for his new house, so I looked up this superstition. So happy to discover the penny solution!
Being Scottish I have heard this one, along with other han(d)sel traditions
In our family the custom with knife was to cut something like a piece of string, so that you didn’t cut the friendship
Money was for purses or wallets
What if you find out after the fact? Can you run back with a coin?? How do you fix that superstition a month later?
Hi Need To Know! Thanks for the awesome question! It’s quite a predicament if you’ve gifted a knife with no coin included. We suggest you give the new knife owner the coin……and since it’s after the fact….with interest applied. The rate of interest can vary according to how much you actually like the person.
But, seriously, it’s a superstition and, by nature, not really…..real. We here at KRUDO Knives are not superstitious in the least and recommend you not give a single ounce of concern about appeasing any superstition. Take a look at some of the historical knife traditions we just recently wrote about when you have a chance. https://www.krudoknives.com/krudo-khronicles/knife-traditions-knife-superstitions/
I am a collector of pocket knives, have over 500 in my collection. Throughout my life, I have received knives as gifts countless times, some with a coin, more without one. I have been (and still am) married to my beautiful wife for 41 years now. Relationships fail for many reasons, none of them knife related.
I´m an interpreter in a South American country and a couple of years ago the King of Sweden was visiting (the Swedes have strong business ties to my city). The mayor of my hometown gave him a knife from a local artisan, if I remember the King collects them. The King said it was traditional in Sweden to give back a coin, I imagine to symbolically turn the gifting into a transaction. He asked his entourage if anyone had a coin, a Swedish crown appeared and the king remarked the bust was of his grandfather. He gifted it to the mayor and everyone was happy.
Now that is the way my grandfather taught me the tradition works. Never accept a cutting utensil of any type as a gift without out paying something to the gift giver, because it will cut your relationship. He did say however, that you can exchange knives without exchanging coin.
While in Firenze last Fall, I bought a beautiful Berti pocket knife. The salesperson taped a coin to it and started to explain when I said I was aware of the tradition. I tried to give it back to her, which was weird because I was already paying good money for it. She declined and I said, “Well what’s the point?” But then the language barrier intruded.
My family tradition solved the problem by never gifting a blade! You always sell it for a penny.
My mother in law gave me few knives and I gave 10 cents for return . What is this mean. I never had such thing like this. What is this mean
My very dear friend just gave me some knives because she plans to move in the future. Before accepting them, I told her that there was a tradition in my family of exchanging a coin but I couldn’t remember which denomination. My grandmother and mother have transitioned so I couldn’t ask them for their opinion. I do remember the family always insisted that you give a coin if you gave knives. Therefore, I looked it up on Google and I appreciate all of the information an input that I received from the website. I’m going to give her the knights back and then ask her to put a penny in it, and I will give the penny back to her. I intend to keep up the tradition / superstition.