Coin On Headstones: What Does It Mean?

coins on headstones

Why People Leave Coins On Headstones

There are so many little traditions surrounding death and the people living. It almost seems like a method of communication between the living and the dead, or maybe it is just a healing process; who knows?

One tradition like this is the practice of leaving behind coins on top of headstones. You may consider this absurd, but a long history runs behind it if you visit national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries. Coins on a headstone signify that this individual was a part of the American military. The denomination they use also sends a different message, but first, why did this tradition start.

Origin: Why do people leave Coins on Headstones?

Everything has its roots or origin. The relationship between money and the afterlife is not new. Many cultures used to put money or gold coin inside graves. Why you may ask? It is so that the dead could live comfortably in their afterlife. A myth that holds a lot of significance with a coin is the story of  Charon’s obol. This story is of enormous importance in Greek mythology.

 Charon is a ferryman who lives between two realms; his one job was to transport the souls from the living realm to the realm of death, the Underworld. However, he would not do it without payment or “obol,” where some coins were exchanged for Charon to cross the river. 

From that time, greek families would put coins on the lids of the deceased’s eyes or inside their mouth as payment for the ferry. 

Why does this practice take place now?

This tradition had stated due to the Vietnam War. The war had caused a huge political divide in the country. It was believed that leaving a coin was seen as a practical way to show that the grave has been rather than contacting the fallen soldier’s family. It was also a way to avoid any unnecessary argument that might take place regarding the politics of the war. 

What is the meaning of the Denominations?

If you have ever witnessed a veteran’s grave, you will notice different coins present there. It is not by accident. Every coin has a different meaning. 

Penny: A  penny is a sign of respect and honor. The person who had placed the penny is not related to the fallen soldier, but they honor the service they had given on behalf of their country. 

Nickel: If you trained with the deceased at boot camp, you could leave behind a nickel.

Dime: When you keep a dime, it signifies that you had served alongside the deceased at some point in time or some capacity

Quarter: It signifies that you were there with the person when they passed away. 

Soldiers give so much to protect their country; this is a small way to remember them and honor them whenever you visit their graves.