Pitching Pennies

  • A game played with coins, for two or more players. It is also known as ‘pitch and toss’ and ‘jingles’.
  • Players take turns to throw a coin at a wall from a certain distance. The objective is to make your coin land closest to the wall. 
  • Before going through the rules and gameplay, a few words on the history of the game. Wikipedia tells us that pitching pennies is known to be played by the Ancient Greeks using bronze coins. Although not accounted thoroughly, it is also noted that this game was used in the first Olympics and this is where the idea of the gold medal comes from. When we come to modern times, we see that the game is a popular means of entertainment among the working class of Britain throughout the 19th century. Despite serious efforts by the police to hunt those involved in the game, since it was considered illegal gambling, pitching pennies was played “fiercely and furtively” on every corner of urban Britain, as reported by Stuart Maconie in his book.
  • Gameplay: Players each take at least one coin of common denomination and they stand at a specific distance (at least five feet) away from the wall. Now they take turns throwing their coins towards the wall. The objective is to throw the coins such that they land as close to the wall as possible. The player to toss his/her coin closest to the wall is the winner of that round. According to a variant, if a tossed coin comes to rest on any part of another coin, the coin on top is considered closer to the wall, regardless of their actual distance to the wall.
  • The final winner can be decided by simply awarding a point to the best thrower at each round (who’s coin lands closest to the wall) and seeing who has scored the maximum points by the end of the game. But if the players choose so, consequences of winning may prove to be more profitable. If you stick to what the game used to be and add the gambling element back in, at the end of each round the winner collects all the losing players' coins from the ground.
  • A variation of more equitable distribution of coins is advisable especially when playing with a lot of players (e.g. 6 or more). In this variant the game ends in “tips”, where the player whose coin lands closest to the wall collects all of the coins, shakes them up in their hands and flicks them all into the air. Before the coins land, the player would shout "heads" or "tails" and be entitled to claim those coins landing the corresponding way. The remaining coins (if any) would then be gathered by the player whose coin landed second closest to the wall, who would repeat the throwing and calling of heads or tails. This process can continue until all the coins are shared among a certain number best ranking players for each round, for example among those placed first, second and third.
Drawings by Malcolm Davis (@malcdavis)