The FUMSUP Charm

15th March 2017 — 19 Comments

I don’t think Steve Grundy is a detectorist, but he was interested in my recent blogpost on the subject of sweetheart brooches, and contacted me about an item he had in his collection. I must confess that I’d never come across this before, and was rather intrigued.

The brooches I highlighted earlier were, in effect, good luck mascots. What Steve showed me was also a good luck charm, popular in the 19th and 20th centuries and often given to soldiers about to go to war. The tiny charm has an interesting history, which the Victorians probably believed …

The Fumsup (Thumbs-Up) character is believed to hark back to Roman times and the days of the gladiators. The story goes that the emperor would decide whether a gladiator would live or die. A ‘thumbs up’ would meant he would live and a ‘thumbs down’ would mean death. Nice story, but I’d take it with a pinch of salt.

© Steve Grundy

It was the outbreak of WWI that saw the popularity of the FUMSUP soar. This was also when the wooden head first appeared and he became a touch wood charm as well as a Fumsup one. Steve tells me that the head is usually oak, and when new would have had two bead eyes. Oak was the preferred structural building material in the superstitious medieval times. Apparently builders would looked for an oak tree that had been struck by lighting and use a piece of the tree in a house build as ‘lightning never strikes in the same place twice’. The FUMSUP with its acorn or oak nut head was derived from this. Notice that the arms are articulated so it can touch its own head. Touch wood.

Advertisements for the jeweller, J. C. Vickery, show a picture of a curious charm entitled, “Fumsup” together with a recommendation to send one, ‘to your friend on active service.’ See the one sold at Fellow’s Auctions in 2016.

Advertisement displaying three types of lucky charm or good luck mascots available from J. C. Vickery of Regent Street, London, jewellers to Their Majesties. One the left is a lucky white heather pendant, also available as a charm. In the centre is a lucky number charm, in this case, the number nine and on the right is “Fumsup”, made from wood but also available in silver or gold with real gem eyes. Courtesy of the Mary Evans Picture Library

I was wondering if any detectorist reading this had found a FUMSUP. If so, I’d love to see it and add to this blogpost. Also complements my earlier post on Joan the Wad.


©Leigh Griffiths

Leigh Griffiths writes:

“After a few hours searching with a mate, I hadn’t much to show for my efforts. He headed up to the car for a bit of food, so I follwed him. On route I spotted a little Lego man and picked it up, gave him a kiss and popped him in my pocket.

When I showed him to my friend I said, “If I find nothing else today, I don’t care as I love this little man.” After eating we continued searching and the very next target was the gold coin the toy man is holding. 😊 Ever since that day LegoMan is in my finds pouch. He is my good luck charm …


New £1 coin:

What do you need to know about the end of the round pound?




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19 responses to The FUMSUP Charm

  1. Oak was preferred by medieval builers John because it is very hard to burn, when Oak was touched by flames it cindered on the outside and then became impervious to the fire. Also during the period sheepswool was recognised as having the same qualities which is why they mixed it in the lime plaster. My Fearnought jacket as First Firefighting Attack team leader in the Royal Navy was made of Lambswool and I wore it through several conflagratians without harm befalling me !

  2. Nice one John good luck charms are popular everywhere and come in all types

  3. I have never heard of this John…. but what I would not give to be able to find a real one.. What an addition to any collection.

    Many thanks for a fascinating insight

  4. Very interesting article John I read it with great interest.

  5. Thats a new one to me.Thanks for posting.Jerry.

  6. Im not superstitious. Well not if you don’t count, walking under ladders, magpies, salt, putting on my right sock first, 11 minutes past 11 (don’t ask), Friday the 13th, being third in the queue. Blah blah blah.
    Come on John can you not do a wee blog on superstition or is it bad luck?

  7. Fascinating article,the lore of it all

  8. Another great post but I have never seen one of them charms before.

  9. Thanks for adding to my knowledge again John!

    My father survived WW2 and put it partly down to the very same good luck charm that you have shown, as it had been given to him by his father who had worn it and survived WW1.Although I have seen it, I thought it odd that what looked like a little doll on a chain, as I hadn’t noticed the thumbs up on the arms.

    I haven’t seen it for a number of years, although it will be somewhere, as I have seen it since he died 27 years ago. Thanks to this additional information, I can now pass that on to my children to add to the oral history of the lucky charm!

    • Lovely … always good to get this kind of feedback!

      Looks as though you should find it, take a picture and show us and ALSO use as a good luck mascot when you got detecting.

    I see 7 on Ebay at the moment. Most are quiet expensive.

  11. It is because of blogs you produce like this one that there will always be a space in my inbox for you John. Thank you. Very interesting and educating. Never heard of them, but I do now!

  12. Thanks again John for some history I can add to my memory bank. I didn’t know about these charms but now I do, I would love to own one.

  13. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 16th March 2017 at 7:56 PM

    Wow John I had never heard of that before.

    I sure wish my father-in-law was still alive to ask him about that, he was a WWII and history nut.

    The Lego story was great, I’m going to have to find my own FUMSUP now.

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