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Why Put Pennies on Headstones

Have you ever visited a cemetery and found coins lining the edge of a headstone? There are many customs, habits, practices, and superstitions in the world, but this tradition is as mysterious as it is honorable. The coins left behind on the edge of a gravestone imply to family members and friends of the deceased that someone else has visited and left a token of commemoration. Every coin carries its own special meaning that communicates a message to loved ones of the deceased. In this guide, Legacy Headstones explores some of the hidden meanings behind headstone coins.

The Tradition of Headstone Coins

Although the act of placing pennies and other coins on gravestones is still relatively new, humans have been leaving tributes at burial sites for millennia. Ancient Greek mythologies claim that the Charon, the ferryman of Hades, needs payment of one coin to ferry anyone’s soul safely across the River Styx that separates the living from the dead. Coins were placed in the mouths of the deceased, according to legend, and over their eyes. If someone couldn’t pay the fee to Charon, they were doomed to wander the shores of the river for at least 100 years.

Roman soldiers would also place coins in the mouths of their fallen comrades with the intention of helping them cross the River Styx and pass into the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians were sometimes entombed with coins and other forms of money. This practice surged again during the Vietnam War when our country was in a deep political divide. Soldiers would leave coins as down payments, promising to buy fallen comrades a beer when they were finally reunited.

Every coin has a distinct meaning or message. Pennies are used to simply say that you visited the grave. A nickel can be used to say that you and the deceased trained at boot camp together. A dime can be used to say that you served with the deceased in some capacities. If you leave a quarter, you’re communicating to the family that you were with the deceased when he or she was killed. After Memorial Day, all the coins that are left at the graves in national and state cemeteries are collected and applied toward maintaining the cemeteries and paying the burial costs of indigent veterans.

Coins can be used as tokens of remembrance without having to contact the family of the deceased directly. Now that you know why some people put pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters on the graves of military veterans, we hope you feel inspired to pay your respects to the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom.