Weird Money Facts: Why We Throw Money in Fountains

by Paul Michael on 21 April 2014 1 comment

How many times have you passed a fountain and thought about throwing a penny in there, just on the off chance that a dream could come true? And how many fountains have you seen that didn't have coins in them? Chances are, they're few and far between. (See also: 40+ Simple Ways to Waste Money)

Throwing money into fountains is something we all seem to take as the norm. It rarely strikes us as bizarre that we're literally throwing money away; after all, it's just a penny or two, here and there. But if you stop and think for a second, why would throwing money away ever be considered a smart thing to do? Where did this originate, and why do we do it?

The Origin of Wishing Wells

Water is an essential part of life. Until recently, having a source of unlimited clean water was something of a luxury. And even today, in some parts of the world, clean water is hard to find. Centuries ago in Europe, this clean water was considered a gift from gods. In fact, many people believed gods, or deities, actually lived in the water. (See also: Over 50 Ways to Save Water)

As such, people would sacrifice what little money they had to these gods in order to honor them, appease them, or ensure that the clean water kept flowing. Water was also seen to have great healing properties, and this added to the idea that water was somehow greater than something that quenches our thirst or keeps us clean.

Of course, over the years these offerings came with little requests of the gods. Nothing big, perhaps a small appeal to help a loved one recover from an illness, or to help bring in a good crop in the autumn harvest. And that, in turn, led to wishing wells; many already existed naturally, others were built specifically for the purpose of granting wishes. And to this day, the tradition of throwing money into wells and fountains still exists.

Norse mythology also plays a part in this tradition. Mimir's Well, also called the "Well of Wisdom," was supposed to grant you infinite wisdom if you sacrificed something you held dear. For most people that was something valuable, like money. Odin, the Allfather of the gods and ruler of Asgard, took that a little further. He threw in his right eye so he could receive the wisdom of seeing the future, and the understanding of why things must be. So, if you ever wondered why Odin wears an eye patch, now you know.

The Fountains of Wealth

Knowing why we throw money into fountains, it prompts the question…"How much money do we throw away each year?" And not only that, but where does it all go?

Some fountains around the world make a lot of money. It's estimated that the Trevi Fountain, in Rome, collects around $4000 every single day! That's almost $1.5 million per year. This money goes to an Italian charity that feeds the poor, so it doesn't go to waste. It's also targeted by thieves, who have been caught shoveling these coins into bags late at night. It does raise another question: Does money thrown away actually belong to anyone? It's the most profitable fountain in the world, bringing in approximately one third of all the money thrown into fountains around the globe; some $4.5 million, according to the Fountain Money Mountain report.

Not all fountains are quite that lucrative though. Surprisingly, fountains in Las Vegas only bring in around $10,000 per year. This money goes to the Simon Youth Foundation. You'd think people in Vegas would want all the luck they could get! (See also: Easy Ways to Support Charity)

And then there's Chicago's Buckingham fountain. In a good year, it will yield $200. Perhaps the people of Chicago are not quite as superstitious as those in Rome or Las Vegas!

Have you ever thrown a coin into a fountain and made a wish?

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Shane | Merchant Processors Promos

You shared a very interesting piece of info. I am aware of wishing wells for the longest time but never did I took time to know where all the coins go. It's nice that there are fountains that give to charitable organizations. At least, even if your wish doesn't come true the coin you threw away can still serve you well.