When it comes to remembering and honoring those dear family members who have departed this world, we all have our ways of going about it.

Respecting the traditions of others as it pertains to celebrating the lives of lost ones is something that should be a given in today’s world. For some, that might mean engaging in practices or customs that are unfamiliar to the rest of us, but that doesn’t make them any less validated.

The same can be said for gravestones and the way some families choose to adorn the resting places of their loved ones. One common fixture – and one you’ve likely seen at some point in time – is the placing of coins on headstones. But why does this exist? And where did it come from? Read on to find out more…

Placing coins on gravestones is a custom witnessed in cemeteries all over the US and beyond. I first noticed it as a child when on a visit to my grandfather’s grave, and even then I began to wonder what it was all about.

Well, fortunately it doesn’t take much digging online to discover the origins. It was once believed that the practice dated as far back as military forces in the Roman Empire, but numerous sources have poured cold water on that misconception in recent years.

That said, placing coins on gravestones is related to the military. It’s said it can be traced back to the Vietnam War, with a page on the American Legion Website writing:

Due to the political divide in the country over the war, leaving a coin was seen as a more practical way to communicate that you had visited the grave than contacting the soldier’s family, which could devolve into an uncomfortable argument over politics relating to the war.”

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Other reasons for leaving coins on gravestones including veterans honoring their fallen comrades, sometimes placing the coins to buy them a beer. As per reports, each coin symbolizes something different.

A penny, for example, simply says that someone was there, while a nickel is left by someone who served in boot camp with the deceased.

A dime, meanwhile, signifies time served in the military together. Then there are quarters, which let the family know that whoever left the coin was present during the time of the loved one’s death.

Have you ever seen a coin left on a gravestone? Did you know what it meant? Let us know in the comments.


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