Navia Aut Caput

The coin toss has an extensive history

It started off as a game played by many before turning into the universal go-to for settling disputes and decision making when torn between two options. The coin toss has an extensive history and it appears that it will not be a distant memory any time soon.

It all began in Ancient Rome with a game called “navia aut caput”, which translates to “ship or head”. During the era of coin flipping inception, coins displayed a ship on one side and a replica of the emperor’s head on the other. Eventually, the game made its way to England, where it became known as “cross and pile” (the cross on the obverse of British currency and a pile, or hammer, on the reverse).  On American soil, a coin toss was used when naming Portland, Oregon (the alternative being Boston) a dispute caused by both stake owners wanting to name the new town after their respective home towns.

Little is known as to how the game became associated with disputes or elections, nor is there an accurate account of the suggestion to use a coin toss to determine which team gets the ball at the start of a game. However, one thing is for certain, it is a mysterious tradition present throughout history and it doesn’t seem to be falling by the wayside anytime soon.

If you like this article, then you might enjoy other articles in our archives, such as Coin Flips Determine Two Kentucky Elections

Liberty Coin & Currency specializes in rare coins and currency. We are a family-owned business located in Portland and Vancouver. We are also gold, silver, diamond, currency and jewelry buyers. Visit us first for a free evaluation.

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