Why you’d be lucky to collect horseshoes

Lucky, lucky, lucky: Traditionally, horsehoes must point upwards to retain their good fortune, as in

Lucky, lucky, lucky: Traditionally, horsehoes must point upwards to retain their good fortune, as in these examples at Heydon in Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

Mike Hicks looks at a common-place object that's become collectable - horseshoes.

Isn't it strange how some common objects that we take for granted end up being collectors' items? Take for example, the humble horseshoe.

I suppose if you are not connected to horses, and don't have the pleasure of dealing with their livery and day-to-day workings, they may never enter your head, and yet I bet there are a large number of readers who have a horseshoe somewhere within their home or the garden.

Frequently, they appear to be dug up, but very rarely discarded. I have often seen them pinned-up on a wall, an outhouse or a shed; usually in the upright or 'u' shape position. I think there is a good reason for this (see below).

So how long have horseshoes been around? Well, a very long time, but to find examples going back many hundreds of years, they have had to be preserved in fairly reasonably warm and dry conditions, but believe you me, there are collectors who are looking out for the unusual shoe.

The use of horseshoes, as we know them, was probably bought into use around about a one hundred BC. They were normally cast from bronze; the early ones were fairly lightweight, and prior to this in Asia, they had used a mix of materials (including plants) to form 'bootees' on the feet of the horses to give them some protection. Once we had the more durable bronze or steel version, things began to improve considerably.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, shoes were forged in large quantities and you could buy them ready-made. The invention has lasted all this time with very few modifications, and the basic metal horseshoe still remains.

Most Read

So, what is the likelihood of finding a very early horseshoe, well, possibly the metal detectorist is the answer. If you have a friend who is one of these, you might well be fortunate to find a nice early one, maybe going back to medieval times, but I doubt you would find a set. I think if you found a reasonably early one in good condition, it is going to cost you a few pounds, maybe less than £50.

Coming back to the superstition, well, if you see any horseshoes, I think you will find they are in the upright position with the two ends facing skyward; this is apparently to retain any luck you might receive, rather than turning it up the other way and luck falling out of the bottom. I am not sure whether this works or not, but for a few bob, you might buy a horseshoe and give it a try!

Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). You can contact Mike on 01692 580636 or info@mikehicksantiques.co.uk.