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Coin Flip: All About Flipping A Coin

Since our childhood, we are accustomed to flipping a coin. In fact, we generally flip a coin while deciding between two choices. It is also known as coin tossing. The act involves throwing a coin up in the air in such a way that it rotates edge-over-edge multiple times.

When the coin is in the midair, or before tossing the coin, one of the two involved parties chooses between ‘heads’ and ‘tails’. ‘Heads’ and ‘tails’ denote the two sides of the coin. After that, as per the custom, the coin is allowed to land on the ground, or be caught by the tosser.

Then after the coin comes to rest, the toss is complete. The party who chose the upper side of the resting coin is declared the winner. There is no specific standardized coin for the process. Normally, any coin having two distinct sides may be used for the process. However, larger coins are preferable for the toss. Moreover, in some special cases, the coins for tossing are custom-made.

However, with time, this simple act has assumed certain other usages. In fact, in mathematics classes too, we can flip a coin to explain, mathematical concepts. In fact, nowadays, separate websites and applications have also been designed where we can flip a coin, digitally. Read the article to know more about flipping a coin.


A Bit Of History

History tells us that metal coins were first manufactured around the 7th century BC. However, the earliest reference to a coin flip may be found in ancient Rome. In fact, in ancient Rome, it was a game known as “navia aut caput”. The expression roughly translates into English as “ship or head”.

It is important to mention here that some Roman coins contained a ship head on one side and the head of the emperor on the other side. In fact, History informs us that Julius Caesar also favored the coin flip around 49 BC. During this time the Romans also used to flip a coin to decide on various serious issues related to crime, marriage, and property.

Later, the British named this game “cross and pile”. In fact, the earlier British coins had the symbol of a cross on one side of the coin. On the other hand, the term “pile” is a Middle Engish term, meaning “reverse of a coin”. However, the origin of the flip coin is a much-debated issue.

According to some historians, it originated in ancient Greece. These historians suggest that in ancient Greece, the Greeks used to cover one side of a shell using ‘black pitch’. The other side of the coin was left uncovered. These shells would then be flipped in the air and the players would then call the sides.

In the modern world, a coin flip is practiced throughout the globe as a deciding factor in various sports like football, cricket, tennis, fencing, etc. Moreover, in politics too, we find the use of coin flip as a decision-making option.
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The Freudian Coin Toss

In our lives, we face various difficult situations while making a choice between two things. In such cases, a coin flip can help us make the decision. However, at times we may also be dissatisfied with the result of the coin toss. Therefore, in such situations, we can find the choice of our liking.

Sigmund Freud took note of this fact and studied it. Therefore, when someone suffered from ambiguity, Freud often advised a coin flip to make the decision. In addition, he also asked those people to study their reactions after the coin toss. He urged them to identify whether they were pleased or disappointed.

After analyzing the reactions, people might understand that they already knew their choices beforehand. This process is also known as the Freudian Coin Toss. This deals with the psychological aspect of simple coin tossing.


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Usage Of A Coin Flip

We flip a coin for various reasons. Sometimes, it is simply for recreation. However, at other times, this seemingly simple act takes on a far more serious usage. The various usages of a coin toss are:

  • Game
  • At times, we play the coin-flipping game with our friends. Therefore, this usage of a coin flip is more for entertainment purposes.

  • Decision Making
  • We also use a coin toss to make decisions. The general usage of the coin toss in this regard is to make a choice between ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

  • Deciding The First Team Make A Choice
  • In various forms of sports like Cricket, Football, Hockey, etc., a coin toss is used to decide which team will go first in the game.

  • Determining A Tie In A Game
  • In a game, when all the means have failed to bring out the winner, a coin flip is used to decide the fate of the teams or the individuals.

  • Educational Purpose
  • Yes! You have read it right. We also flip a coin for educational purposes. This is more relatable t those, who have attended classes on Probability in mathematics. A coin toss is really useful in a lesson on probability.

  • Showing Off Skill
  • A coin flip may not appear the most stylish. But some people can really turn it into an art. There are many people who can toss the coin in a very unorthodox way. Therefore, for them, it becomes a mode to show off their skill.


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    A Few Famous Coin Flips

    Coin flip has been present in almost every age of human civilization. However, the names might have been different. Therefore, having a long history also suggests that the act of flipping a coin may also have some famous and memorable instances of its usage. In fact, there are quite a few such instances:

    The Deadly Coin Toss

    Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson suffered a plane crash on On 3rd February 1959. In that crash, all three died. However, Valens could have survived, if not for a coin toss. Before boarding the plane, Valens and Tommy Allsup did flip a coin to decide who would travel by the chartered aircraft of Holly. Valens won the toss but lost his life.

    Reason Behind The Name Of Portland

    This is one of the most famous coin flips which took place in 1845. This particular toss was done using a one-cent coin and involved Francis Pettygrove and Asa Lovejoy. These two were the founders of Portland. At that time Portland was known as The Clearing. Both of them wanted to name it. Therefore, They decided to leave the matter of naming right to be decided by a coin toss. The coin flip favored Francis and he named the city Portland. The coin used during the toss has become famous as the Portland Penny.

    The Triple Crown horse - Secretariat

    Penny Chenery and Ogden Phipps flipped a coin to decide the first pick of two foals sired by Bold Ruler, the famous racehorse in 1969. Ogden won the toss and did not choose Secretariat, the horse. However, Penny’s Secretariat went on to make history in the game. Bad luck or bad choice?

    NBA Drafts 1966-1984

    The lottery system was introduced in the NBA Drafts in 1985. However, prior to that, a coin toss decided the team to have the first pick.


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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is Coin Flip?

    Coin Flip is the act of tossing a coin up in the air in such a manner that the coin rotates edge-over-edge multiple times. The coin then is allowed to land on the ground or is caught or caught and flipped, as per the tradition. When the coin is in the midair, or before tossing the coin, one of the two involved parties chooses between ‘heads’ and ‘tails’. ‘Heads’ and ‘tails’ denote the two sides of the coin. After the coin comes to rest the party who chose the upper side of the resting coin is declared the winner.

    Does this coin flip really produce a 50/50 result?

    Yes. Coin Flip by Popular Media News produces a 50/50 result.

    What is a three-way coin flip?

    A three-way coin flip is helpful for making a two out of three or one out of three decision:

    • We can flip a coin three times. The result which comes twice will be taken as the winner. If all three flips result in the same outcome, then the process is repeated till any result is reached.
    • In a similar fashion to flipping the coin three times, the result that comes once may also be taken as the winner.