Memorials with Love

Coins on Gravestones: Unveiling the Symbolism and Secrets in Cemeteries

Leaving Coins on Gravestones: A Symbolic GestureHave you ever noticed small coins left on gravestones while visiting a cemetery? These seemingly insignificant objects hold a deeper meaning and are rooted in history and symbolism.

In this article, we will explore the history and significance of leaving coins on gravestones. We will delve into ancient Greek mythology, explore other mementos left on graves, and understand the context of coins on military graves.

History and Symbolism of Leaving Coins on Gravestones

Ancient Greek Myth of Charon and the River Styx

In ancient Greek mythology, it was believed that the souls of the deceased had to cross the River Styx, guarded by the mythological ferryman Charon. To pay Charon for safe passage to the afterlife, coins were placed in the mouth or on the eyes of the deceased.

These coins, known as “remittance,” ensured a smooth journey in the afterworld. – The name Charon is derived from the Greek word “kharon,” meaning “fierce brightness” or “glaring.” This describes Charon’s role as both a guide and guardian of the souls.

– The practice of placing coins on the eyes or in the mouth of the deceased to pay Charon can be traced back to ancient Greek funeral rituals.

Other Mementos Left on Graves

Leaving mementos on graves is not exclusive to ancient Greek mythology. Various cultures and traditions have their unique ways of honoring the departed.

– Ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife and left food, drinks, and other personal belongings for the deceased. – The Navajo tribe places pebbles or small rocks on gravestones as a way to decorate the resting place.

– In Jewish tradition, leaving small stones on a grave symbolizes the act of remembrance and honors the memory of the deceased.

Coins on Military Graves

History of Coins on Military Graves

The practice of leaving coins on military graves dates back to the Vietnam War era, a time filled with political tensions and a divided nation. The gesture of leaving coins gained popularity during this period to honor fallen soldiers.

– The Vietnam War influenced the practice of leaving coins on graves, as many families and friends struggled to cope with the loss of their loved ones. – The coins serve as a tangible reminder of the soldiers’ sacrifice and a way for visitors to show their respect and gratitude.

Meaning of Coins on Military Graves

Different coins hold different meanings when left on military graves, ranging from personal significance to broader symbolism. – Pennies are left to indicate a visit paid to the fallen soldier’s grave, symbolizing that someone has come to honor their memory.

– Nickels are left by those who trained with the fallen soldier. – Dimes are left by those who served alongside the fallen soldier.

– Quarters are left by those who were present when the fallen soldier died or who were with them during their final moments. – Challenge coins, which are specially designed military coins, are sometimes left as a token of camaraderie and pride among military personnel.


Leaving coins on gravestones holds immense historical and symbolic significance. From the ancient Greek myth of Charon to the personalized meanings on military graves, each coin tells a story.

By understanding the origins and practices associated with leaving coins on gravestones, we can appreciate the profound respect and honor displayed towards the deceased.

Coins on Non-Military Graves

Meaning of Coins on Non-Military Graves

While the tradition of leaving coins on graves is often associated with military burials, this practice extends beyond the military realm. Coins left on non-military graves can carry their own unique meanings and sentiments.

– Pennies on non-military graves may convey a similar message as they do on military graves. A penny left on a grave signifies that someone has visited the grave and paid their respects.

It serves as a symbol that the deceased is not forgotten and holds a special place in the hearts of those who left the coin. – Nickels left on graves of loved ones may indicate a personal connection or a specific memory shared with the deceased.

It can represent the significance of the relationship and the value it held for the person leaving the coin. – Dimes left on non-military graves might symbolize a strong bond or a profound connection between the person leaving the dime and the deceased.

It serves as a token of remembrance and a way to show ongoing respect and love. – Quarters left on graves can symbolize a more intimate relationship with the deceased.

It may indicate that the person leaving the coin was present during significant moments in the deceased’s life or had a deep level of closeness. Commemorating the Famous/Infamous

Coins and other mementos left on graves are not solely limited to honoring friends and family.

Famous or infamous individuals may also receive such tokens of remembrance from admirers, fans, or even those who hold differing opinions. – Famous individuals, such as influential writers, musicians, or historical figures, may have coins left on their graves by those who seek to connect with their legacies and commemorate their impact on society.

These coins are left as a way to pay homage and express appreciation for the significant contributions the individual made during their lifetime. – Infamous individuals, on the other hand, may have coins left on their graves as a symbol of remembrance, but often with a different intent.

In these cases, the coins may be left as a form of protest or to mark the grave in a way that acknowledges the person’s negative actions or legacy.

Etiquette for Leaving Coins on a Grave

Found a Coin on a Grave

If you come across a coin that has been left on a grave, it is important to respect the intention behind its placement. Consider the following etiquette guidelines:

– Leave the coin in place: The coin on the grave may be a symbol of respect or a token left by someone who has visited the grave.

It is best to leave it undisturbed to honor the gesture and maintain the peace of the cemetery. – Acknowledge the sentiment: Even if you don’t know the personal meaning behind the coin, remember that it represents someone’s remembrance and respect for the deceased.

Treat it with reverence and appreciation for the person’s act of honoring their loved one.

Want to Leave a Coin on a Grave

If you would like to participate in this poignant tradition and leave a coin on a grave, here are some suggestions to consider:

– Understand the significance: Before leaving a coin, it is important to familiarize yourself with the meaning behind different denominations. Consider what kind of relationship or connection you have with the deceased and choose a coin accordingly.

– Respect cemetery regulations: Ensure that leaving coins or any other objects on graves is permitted in the cemetery you are visiting. Some cemeteries may have specific rules or restrictions, so it is essential to abide by them.

– Reflect on the intention: Take a moment to pause, reflect, and commemorate the life of the person you are honoring. Offer a silent tribute or say a few words to honor their memory.

Remember that leaving a coin is not just a casual act, but rather a ritual or tradition that holds deep meaning for both the visitor and the deceased. The tradition of leaving coins on graves, whether military or non-military, continues to be a powerful gesture of remembrance and respect.

By understanding the various meanings behind different coins and the etiquette associated with leaving them, we can engage in this tradition with thoughtfulness and reverence.

What NOT to do in a Cemetery

10 things you shouldn’t do in a cemetery

When visiting a cemetery, it is essential to remember that it is a sacred space where loved ones are laid to rest. To ensure that you pay your respects appropriately and maintain the tranquility of the environment, here are ten things you should avoid doing:


Loud conversations: Respect the peaceful atmosphere by speaking softly. Remember that others may be visiting graves nearby, seeking solace and reflection.

2. Disruptive behavior: Avoid any behavior that may disturb the peace or solemnity of the cemetery.

This includes running, shouting, or playing loud music. 3.

Picnicking or eating: Cemeteries are not appropriate places for picnicking or consuming food. Respect the purpose of the space and find more suitable locations for such activities.

4. Taking inappropriate photographs: If you wish to take photographs in a cemetery, be respectful and mindful of privacy.

Do not take photos of grieving individuals or of personal belongings on gravestones without permission. 5.

Vandalism or theft: It goes without saying that any form of vandalism or theft is completely inappropriate. Respect the property and remember that gravestones hold immense sentimental value for families and loved ones.

6. Walking on graves: Treat the gravesites with utmost respect.

Never walk on or sit on grave markers, as this action demonstrates a lack of reverence for the deceased. 7.

Disturbing grave items: Be cautious not to touch, move, or disturb any items left on graves, such as flowers, mementos, or coins. These items are placed there intentionally and should be left undisturbed.

8. Bringing pets: Unless explicitly allowed by the cemetery’s regulations, it is best to leave pets at home.

It can be disruptive to other visitors, and not all cemeteries permit animals on their grounds. 9.

Engaging in recreational activities: Avoid engaging in sports, games, or other recreational activities within the cemetery grounds. The space should be treated with dignity and respect.

10. Littering: Be mindful of your surroundings and dispose of any waste in designated receptacles.

Littering in a cemetery is disrespectful and detracts from the serene environment. By adhering to these cemetery etiquette guidelines, we show consideration and respect for both the deceased and the people who come to remember them.

Let us ensure that cemeteries remain places of solace and reflection for all who visit. In conclusion, the practice of leaving coins on gravestones holds deep historical and symbolic significance.

From the ancient Greek myth of Charon to the personalized meanings on military and non-military graves, coins serve as tokens of remembrance, respect, and connection to the deceased. Understanding the meaning behind different coins, respecting cemetery etiquette, and avoiding inappropriate actions ensures that we honor the sacred nature of these spaces and pay our respects appropriately.

Let us remember the importance of this tradition and the impact it has on those who visit cemeteries, keeping the memory of the departed alive for generations to come.

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