In the eastern & southern United States Buckeyes were traditionally thought to be a sure preventive of rheumatism, arthritis, or headache. Identical beliefs were recorded in Germany and the Netherlands during the early 19th century, but there the preventive power was attributed to the buckeye’s European relative, the horse-chestnut. It is probable that European immigrants transferred the horse-chestnut’s magical ability to the buckeye when they settled in America. Missouri, lore holds that a buckeye increases the bearer’s sexual power. In the African-American tradition, a buckeye in the pocket is reputed to increase one’s supply of pocket money — and the buckeye forms the basis of a popular good luck charm for gamblers.
Over time, the “magical ability” of the buckeye became broadly interpreted as a general good luck charm often carried in pockets, purses or on key chains.