Here’s What Actually Happens to the Coins You Throw into Fountains

Ceremoniously tossing spare coins into a fountain to make a wish is a small ritual many people carry from childhood into their adult lives. It’s fun. It’s whimsical. And it can help to mark a special occasion.

Around the world, fountains themselves qualify as major attractions, drawing in scores of wishers willing to part with a penny or two. But have you ever wondered what happens to that money? Does it stay in there clogging up the system, or does the wish fairy come and collect them all?

Shedding light on this mystery is this video from Coinage. Starting off at Rome’s popular Trevi fountain, we learn that it’s a tradition to throw a coin over one’s shoulder. Doing so will ensure a return to the beautiful city.

As a busy tourist spot, the fountain takes in about $15,000 in coins per week, which is in turn collected and given to a local charity, Caritas. Caritas uses the money to help with shelter and food for the needy.

Besides enjoying the synchronized music and light show, you can make a well-received wish at the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas. Set in an 8-½-acre lake, the fountains require crews who use a super-sized vacuum to clear out the bottom, collecting roughly $12,000 per year. The money is sifted, cleaned, and donated to local charities like Habitat for Humanity.

Image of coins in water.Coinage

If you’ve ever visited a Rainforest Café location, then you may be interested in learning that the chain donates its wishing coins to non-profits that work in the environmental awareness field. Globally, their restaurants’ fountains bring in about $25,000 a year.
Click on the video to hear about how your local fountains and mega attractions like Disney World handle the coins from their magical waters. In addition to being donated to charity, in most places around the globe, the wishing funds are also used for the upkeep of the fountains themselves. It takes a lot of work to keep those fountains in working condition!
Here’s an interesting tidbit: the practice of throwing coins into fountains began many centuries ago. In ancient Rome for example, people would leave offerings for the gods at wells and fountains. Sometimes coins were left (as were statues or other tokens) as a thank you for clean water or for prayers being answered.
The legend of the Trevi evolved from where the fountain was built. It sits at the point where the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct ends, and legend has it that soldiers guided there by a goddess for a drink would receive good health and luck in returning home. It later evolved into the story it is today about tossing a coin in for an eventual return to Rome. Thus, the coins keep coming.
Maybe you have a favorite fountain location that you love to make a throw a coin and make a wish. A restaurant? A park? A mall, perhaps? Though sometimes our lucky coins fall into the hands of thieves, in many cases they end up granting someone’s request.

What’s your tradition of making wishes at wells or fountains? Did you know about how the coins are collected? Have you ever been to one of these famous sites and tossed a coin? Share with us in the comments!