How This Artist Transformed Found Heads-up Lucky Pennies into 400 Pieces of Art

Michael Worthington has over 400 paintings incorporating found heads-up pennies.

By Michael Worthington

December, 1999. Holiday time in NYC. Unemployed while in the music business, I was walking home one evening when I noticed a fair amount of change on the sidewalks.

It caught my attention that in a city so wealthy, some could drop money and not care, and others had nothing.

From this came the idea of the Lucky Penny Paintings.

I started picking up heads-up pennies–the lucky kind. I wrap the penny in a tiny envelope and label it with location and date found.

Each penny becomes a 4”x 4” acrylic painting, the size working proportionally to the penny.

Michael Worthington Chinatown NYC
Michael Worthington “Chinatown NYC”

You can cup the Lucky Penny Painting in two hands, much like a retablo, with the energy of the penny radiating outward. The painting reflects the location, history of the area and my relationship to it.

Michael Worthington "Lollypop Building NYC"
Michael Worthington “Lollypop Building NYC”

The sides of the painting are labeled with the location and date found, and the number on the front is the order in which the penny was picked up.

Painted Sides of Paintings
Painted sides of Lucky Penny Paintings

I have found over four hundred pennies during the twenty-one years I’ve worked on this project, from all over the US, Canada, UK, Mexico, Iceland, Nicaragua, China, Cambodia, Barbados and more.

Michael Worthington Bowery NYC
Michael Worthington “Bowery NYC”

I have shown the paintings in group and solo shows, and hope to have a book out in the not too distant future.

Michael Worthington

My mother, who put music and art in my hands as a child, often told me I “marched to a different drummer.” Others thought me quirky. The music business was a place where quirky could be successful, and I found I was able to work the room even though I didn’t want to be in the room. Art was always a refuge, a place where I could be alone for hours.

My neurodiversity was diagnosed 10 years ago, at age 54. This new understanding helped give me some context about my past, and possibly a better understanding of myself moving forward.

My work can be found on Instagram @luckypennypaintings.

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