Coins Are Placed on the Graves of Former Soldiers

If you ever go to a cemetery, you will most likely see coins on top of some gravestones.  

But has anyone ever explained to you why people leave coins and what they mean? 

Where did the tradition of leaving coins on a gravestone originate?

The tradition of leaving coins on gravestones has been around for centuries.  It is believed to have originated in ancient Greece, where mourners left a coin to ensure the deceased’s safe passage into the afterlife.  Back then, coins were placed on the eyes of the deceased as a payment for the ferryman of the river Styx, who was thought to transport souls from the world of the living to the afterlife.

Men on a row boat trying to save themselves from a serious storm.

In the United States, coins are placed on the graves of former soldiers to show appreciation for their service

Three soldiers saluting into the sky with the american flag on their backs.

Military families often leave coins on the graves of deceased soldiers to signify that they have visited the grave and to show their gratitude for the service that the deceased rendered.

The different denominations of the coins have a significant meaning.

  • A penny signifies that the visitor and the deceased trained together;
  • A nickel means that they had attended military school together;
  • A dime signifies that they served together but were not in the same company; and
  • A quarter signifies that the visitor was present when the deceased was killed.

The coins you see on top of a gravestone have a deeper meaning than just random objects placed on them.  

Picture of headstone with rocks and coins laying on top next to an american flag.

It is part of a long-standing tradition and deeply rooted belief that the deceased should be respected and that their offerings should remain undisturbed to avoid bad luck or misfortune.

If you plan to visit a cemetery, be aware of this tradition to avoid disrespecting those buried there.

So, “If you see a penny, pick it up, and you’ll have good luck all day.  But leave it on a grave, lest misfortune come your way.”