Pitch and Toss

Played in the 1960s at local crossroads and meeting points.

Gerry Costello

Pitch and Toss.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in the early to mid 1960s it would be unusual to walk a mile of the road and not find a group of men playing pitch and toss, or pitching, as it was better known locally. Pitch and Toss is described in the dictionary as a game of skill and chance in which the player who pitches a coin nearest to a mark has the first chance to toss all the coins, winning those that land heads up”.

Garbally Cross, in front of James Dolly’s Forge, would be one definite location. Pitching pennies is a very old game and while the coins used over the centuries inevitably changed, the game was known to be played by the Ancient Greeks using bronze coins. It is believed that this game was used in the first Olympics but was later removed due to lack of entertainment value and this is where the idea of the Gold Medal comes from. Pitching pennies was a game played with coins. Players take turns to throw a coin at a wall or a stone from some distance away. The coin which landed closest to the wall was the winner. and they collected all of the coins.

The Game:

Any number of players lined up a fixed distance away from a wall or stone. The players each took a coin of common denomination most usually the old copper penny and took turns throwing them towards the wall or stone. The objective was to throw the coins such that they would land as close to the wall or stone as possible. Rolling the coin was forbidden. Some forms of the game required the coin to hit the wall or stone to be a valid throw.

This was a gambling game, with the winner collecting all the losing players’ coins from the ground. Other variations included the game ending in ‘tips’, where the player whose coin landed closest to the wall collected all of the coins and flicks them all into the air. Before the coins land, the player would shout ‘heads’ or ‘tails’ and be entitled to claim those coins landing the corresponding way. The remaining coins, if any, would then be gathered by the player whose coin landed second closest to the wall, who would repeat the throwing and calling of heads or tails. This process would continue until all the coins had been picked up.

Several scoring variants existed. If a coin landed at an angle against the wall or stone, this enabled ‘Double Money’ which caused the prize total to double. ‘Triple Money’ was rewarded when a thrower’s coin was standing vertically against the wall or stone.

It’s demise:

By the late 1960s it was no longer popular. Television and the broadcasting of games on Sunday on the TV as well as other forms of entertainment contributed to it’s demise but I feel that decimalisation had much to do with it also. The old penny was large and heavy while the new penny was small and light and did not go well with pitching.


This page was added on 16/01/2015.

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