BET: Challenge someone to count the alpha-numeric characters on the head side of a penny. Tell them that if they are off, even by one of the correct amount, that they still win whatever the bet is for. However, if they fail then they owe you.
SECRET: The correct answer is 26 or 27 depending on the penny. Pennies minted in Denver have a small “D” underneath the year or date. The phrase “In God We Trust” accounts for twelve of the characters. The word “Liberty” accounts for seven of the characters. The year accounts for four of the characters. So a Denver penny looks like it has 24 characters to the casual observer but there are 3 more that most people don’t know about. The letters VDB appear on every penny on the lower left-side of Lincoln’s bust (Fig. 1). The letters are visible to the naked eye but are best seen with a magnifying glass.
VDB are the initials of Victor David Brenner who designed the wheat penny in 1909 to commemorate 100 years since Lincoln’s birth. Later his initials were moved from the back of that coin and placed onto the front of all pennies where they still hide today. Worn pennies are sometimes hard to read, so when presenting this challenge it is best to use a new shiny penny to be fair.
If you are a gambler, then you might find this fact interesting. If you toss a penny 10,000 times, it will not be heads 5000 times, but more like 4950. The portrait side weighs more, so it ends up on the bottom more often.
Also, remember the old wives tale, “Find a penny- pick it up, all day long you’ll have a penny.”
For more commercial magic and puzzles from Diamond Jim Tyler visit his online shop.