American Gods

American Gods

Shadow’s Coins Symbol Analysis

Shadow’s Coins Symbol Icon

Shadow often does small coin tricks throughout the novel, but there are two coins in particular that take on greater significance. His gold coin symbolizes the sun, while his silver coin symbolizes the moon. Taking literally the idea that these heavenly bodies “watch over” the earth, both these coins offer protection in different ways. Together, they represent the importance of balance and duality, gold and silver, life and death, the sun and the moon.

The gold coin that Shadow takes from the “treasure of the sun” is supposed to belong only to the King of America, marking Shadow as American royalty because he is able to take it from the sun’s hoard. As well as connecting Shadow to his true nature as the sun god Baldur of Norse mythology, the coin literally represents new life. It has the power to grant Laura a chance at life even after she dies, reanimating her corpse so that she can help protect Shadow. Thus the gold coin protects Shadow indirectly, channeling his own power as a sun god through Laura as Laura fights to keep Shadow safe. The silver coin, itself bearing the American symbol of liberty in the face of the Statue of Liberty, in some sense offers Shadow freedom from death. As long as Shadow has the silver coin, he is protected from death by the New Gods. When Shadow chooses to die as a sacrifice for Odin, the silver coin becomes the moon and lights Shadow’s way through the underworld. Thus the silver coin gives Shadow freedom again once he dies and is reborn knowing his full identity as Odin’s son. Shadow is then able to use his power as the sun god completely, plucking another gold coin from the sun’s hoard at the end of the novel, once Shadow is free from all the manipulations of the other gods.

More than the life-giving and protective powers of the coins themselves, the coins also represent Shadow’s affinity for both the Old Gods and the New Gods. The gold coin ties Shadow to the traditional sun god mythos, but it also shows his essential American nature by naming him the “King of America.” The silver coin is given to Shadow by Zorya Polunochnaya, an old Slavic goddess of the moon and the night, showing that Shadow is blessed by the Old Gods even as it guides him through the underworld where he becomes a New God born of American belief. The coins thus show Shadow’s identity both as a reincarnation of an established god and a completely new god in his own right. As Shadow taps into the magic power of these coins, he blends both of these roles and reinvents what gods can do in America and in the American psyche.

Shadow’s Coins Quotes in American Gods

The American Gods quotes below all refer to the symbol of Shadow’s Coins. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the William Morrow edition of American Gods published in 2013.
Chapter 3 Quotes

She did not look at him. "You've gotten yourself mixed up in some bad things, Shadow. You're going to screw it up, if someone isn't there to watch out for you. I'm watching out for you. And thank you for my present."

Related Characters: Laura Moon (speaker), Shadow Moon (Baldur)
Related Symbols: Shadow’s Coins
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other American Gods quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 4 Quotes

"You were given protection once, but you lost it already. You gave it away. You had the sun in your hand. And that is life itself. All I can give you is much weaker protection. The daughter, not the father. But all helps. Yes?" Her white hair blew about her face in the chilly wind, and Shadow knew that it was time to go back inside.
"Do I have to fight you? Or play checkers?" he asked.
"You do not even have to kiss me," she told him. “Just take the moon."

Related Characters: Shadow Moon (Baldur) (speaker), Zorya Polunochnaya
Related Symbols: Shadow’s Coins
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 8 Quotes

"I did it like he said. I did it all like he said, but I gave you the wrong coin. It wasn't meant to be that coin. That's for royalty. You see? I shouldn't even have been able to take it. That's the coin you'd give to the King of America himself…
"You did it like who said, Sweeney?"
"Grimnir. The dude you call Wednesday. You know who he is? Who he really is?"

Related Characters: Mad Sweeney (speaker), Shadow Moon (Baldur), Mr. Wednesday (Odin)
Related Symbols: Shadow’s Coins
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Chapter LitChart as a printable PDF.
American gods.pdf.medium

Shadow’s Coins Symbol Timeline in American Gods

The timeline below shows where the symbol Shadow’s Coins appears in American Gods. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Deception Theme Icon
...in the bar feels fuzzy and blurred in a mead-induced haze. Shadow finds a large gold coin in his pocket and plays with it while Wednesday drives, slowly remembering that Mad Sweeney... (full context)
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...while Wednesday goes to get them rooms at the Motel America. Shadow manipulates his heavy gold coin as he walks into the dim funeral hall and to the room where Laura’s casket... (full context)
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...there is a short service and Laura is lowered into the ground. Shadow throws his gold coin in with the dirt, says, “I’m sorry,” and then starts to walk back into town. (full context)
Chapter 3
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...she thanks him for her “present.” When Shadow questions what present, Laura pulls the large gold coin out of her pocket. She then gets up to kiss Shadow goodbye. Laura rises on... (full context)
Chapter 4
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...but gave it away. Zorya Polunochnaya then gives Shadow a weaker protection by plucking a silver Liberty-head dollar coin from the moon. When Shadow wakes the next morning, he finds the silver coin still... (full context)
Chapter 5
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...is awake to say goodbye to Shadow and Wednesday when they leave. Shadow keeps his silver coin in his hand, flipping it over his palm. Wednesday nods at Shadow’s skill, but Shadow... (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Plurality and the Power of the Individual in America Theme Icon
Looking at the silver coin more closely, Wednesday laughs that Lady Liberty, a foreigner, is the symbol of all that... (full context)
Chapter 6
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...about whether whoever kidnapped him is going to kill him. Eventually, he takes out the silver Liberty coin and just holds it, waiting. (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...refuses to let his mind go to that kind of violence again. Shadow clutches his Liberty coin until the beating finally stops. Mr. Stone gives Shadow one more warning to cooperate and... (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...He wakes and wonders if Wednesday has been caught as well, then notices that the Liberty coin is still in his hand and still cold. The coin makes Shadow think of Zorya... (full context)
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...dead. Laura tells Shadow to leave while he can. Shadow notices that Laura still has the gold coin , now hanging from a chain at her neck. (full context)
Chapter 8
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
The Sacredness of American Land Theme Icon
...made a huge mistake while trying to follow Wednesday’s orders, and needs Shadow to give the gold coin back. The coin that Shadow took comes from the treasure of the sun and belongs... (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Plurality and the Power of the Individual in America Theme Icon
...changes to what he considers his story. Mad Sweeney then teaches Shadow how to do the gold coin trick one more time. (full context)
Chapter 10
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...fear that it is his own fault that Laura is half-alive, as he gave Laura the gold coin . Wednesday asks Shadow not to look for “eagle stones” and “thunderbirds” to bring Laura... (full context)
Chapter 11
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
Shadow notices a young boy watching him, so he takes out his Liberty coin and does a few coin tricks for the boy. The boy brings his mom over,... (full context)
Chapter 13
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...changes into orange clothes and gives up his wallet, secretly hiding some money and the silver Liberty coin. The woman guard in charge of the holding cells lets Shadow sit out in the... (full context)
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...Lafayette sheriff’s department comes to get him. Shadow sits in the cell playing with his Liberty coin to pass the time and to avoid thinking of Wednesday. A door opens in the... (full context)
Chapter 16
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
The Sacredness of American Land Theme Icon
...the same jeans and white t-shirt that he wore when Zorya Polunochnaya gave him the Liberty coin . As Shadow walks down rock steps, he sees Zorya Polunochnaya waiting at the bottom.... (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...way to go. Before deciding, he turns to Zorya Polunochnaya and gives her back the Liberty coin . Zorya Polunochnaya closes her hand on the coin and then the coin floats above... (full context)
Chapter 18
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...to come back after all. She wants to move on. Slowly, Shadow reaches up to the gold coin that Laura has worn around her neck. He says, “I love you” one last time,... (full context)
Postscript
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Plurality and the Power of the Individual in America Theme Icon
...Odin’s hand through sleight of hand. Odin asks for more tricks, so Shadow makes a gold coin appear out of the air. Shadow flips the gold coin into the sky, where it... (full context)