Coins on a Gravestone: What it Means

Have you come across a gravestone covered in coins? It’s not unusual while visiting a cemetery to see the stones covered in various coins. So, what’s up with that?

Based on the legend, the coin left is usually on the gravestones of U.S. military veterans. Visitors who want to show their respect leave coins on the headstones in various amounts. It shows their loved ones of the soldier’s family that someone has visited the grave.

Leaving a penny denotes you visited and is thanking the veteran for their service. A nickel signifies you trained at boot camp with the deceased. A dime indicates you served with him or her. A quarter denotes you were with the soldier when they died.

Turns out leaving coins on a grave is a sign of respect.

The beginning of the tradition is up for debate. Though, many folks believe it began in the US during the Vietnam War. America was in a crisis of conscience. Any discussion of the war typically devolved into a more serious discussion about politics. Leaving a coin was a way to say you appreciate the soldier’s service while avoiding an inevitable uncomfortable conversation.

Just a legend?

That’s the theory. Keeping it real, leaving coins on gravestones goes back to just 2009. The money is typically collected and donated to the cemetery’s upkeep and possible burial costs.

But humans have left tributes and artifacts at gravesites for hundreds of years. Based on Greek mythology, during the Roman empire, fellow soldiers would put a coin into the mouth of a fallen soldier to make sure they could cross the River Styx into the afterlife.

However, one United States tradition is the leaving of “challenge coins” on military headstones by fellow veterans. These coins typically have the emblem of the deceased’s military company or unit. Fellow soldiers leave them to pay tribute to them and their family members.