Coffin nails are believed to be powerful in the tradition of hoodoo magic because the dead are seen as powerful and able to help intervene in magical spells -- this is based on African spiritual practices where one's ancestors are seen as being able to intervene with the gods on your behalf. Now, of course, virtually nobody selling coffin nails is really selling nails salvaged from a used coffin (and if anyone is, you're sure not going to be paying $3 for a set of nine.) In the photo above is a set of genuine from-an-old-coffin nails I acquired out of sheer luck (the leftmost); to the right are some quality replacements made by myself (top) and by the famous Karma Zain (bottom.)
Typically, if you buy so-called coffin nails from a large hoodoo supplier, all you're getting is a set of rusty nails. Smaller retailers like me and like Karma Zain sometimes make replacements using more elaborate methods. Indeed, since most things sold as coffin nails are not really nails from coffins and thus have nothing really to do with the dead, it's not too difficult to replace them with something that's probably even better. Here are some ideas:
- Take regular nails and bury them in grave dirt or a graveyard to charge them with powers of the dead.
- Find a "lucky nail" -- basically, any nail you find out on the street or sidewalk by chance is believed to be a lucky item, and would be particularly auspicious to use in luck bringing magic.
- Rub a regular nail with a powder or oil like Goofer Dust or Bones of the Dead to charge it with the same kind of powers it would acquire if it were from a coffin.
As I've demonstrated, a determined person can come upon real coffin nails with some effort and luck -- old caskets are sometimes dug up for various reasons, providing rare opportunities for the real thing. From about the 1950s coffins ceased to be made primarily of wood (at least in America) and the lids became hinged and locked instead of nailed into place; so nothing any newer than that is going to have any quantity of nails in it, though you might be able to find screws or brads in a newer coffin. You would need to keep an eye out for an older graveyard if your heart's set on coffin nails. Then wait for cases where, either accidentally or intentionally, things may be disrupted in the yard; for example, old graveyards sometimes only technically leased the land, and will dig the body back up when the lease runs out -- this is basically how the Museo de los Momias in Mexico came to exist. Natural disasters like floods can also cause havoc in a graveyard, and you may be able to find some bits and pieces around in the aftermath. My own stroke of luck involved a rodent infestation. (I know, I know, I sound a lot cooler if I let everyone think I just went out and dug up a coffin on my own, preferably with some fancy Voodoo ceremony to accompany, but facts are facts; it was the prairie dogs that unearthed the pieces for me.)
So let me reiterate; you buy a spell from me, and I am one of the few practitioners with a real coffin nail for use in your spells. So goes my commitment to using quality products in spellcasts.