Coin tossing through the ages





– Coin flipping as a game was known to the Romans as "navia aut caput" (ship or head), as some coins had a ship on one side and the head of the emperor on the other.

– A related game, Cross and Pile, was played in medieval England. The cross was the major design on one side of many coins, and the Pile was the mark created by the hammer used to strike the metal on the other side.

– One of the most significant coin tosses in the United State's history involved the naming of the city of Portland, Oregon in 1845. Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove, who owned the claim to the land that would later become Portland, each wanted to name their new town after their respective hometowns of Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine. Pettygrove prevailed in the coin flip, and the town was named Portland.

– In 1903, the Wright brothers flipped a coin to see which one of them would take to the air in the first ever powered flight. Wilbur won the toss but his attempt was only partially successful. Orville's later flight was considered the first example of powered flight.

– In the 1968 European Football Championship the semi-final between Italy and the Soviet Union finished 0-0 after extra-time. Penalty shoot-outs had not been invented and it was decided to toss a coin to see who reached the final, rather than play a replay. Italy won, and went on to become European champions.

The New Zealand lottery game Big Wednesday uses a coin toss. If a player matches all 6 of their numbers, the coin toss will decide whether they win a cash jackpot or a bigger jackpot with luxury prizes.

– In August 2001, Nasser Hussain, the England cricket captain, lost the toss for the 14th successive time.

– Some elections have been decided by the toss of a coin when no candidate has secured a majority. In May 2007, Conservative Christopher Underwood-Frost only held on by winning on the toss of a coin after he tied with his Lib Dem rival on 781 votes for the Lincolnshire seat.


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