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#2581596 - 01/01/14 09:24 PM Coins left on graves
memareich Offline

Registered: 05/16/04
Loc: Sunny No. CA
Just found this explanation. Don't know how accurate it is.


While visiting some cemeteries you may notice that headstones marking certain graves have coins on them, left by previous visitors to the grave.

These coins have distinct meanings when left on the headstones of those who gave their life while serving in America's military, and these meanings vary depending on the denomination of coin.

A coin left on a headstone or at the grave site is meant as a message to the deceased soldier's family that someone else has visited the grave to pay respect. Leaving a penny at the grave means simply that you visited.

A nickel indicates that you and the deceased trained at boot camp together, while a dime means you served with him in some capacity. By leaving a quarter at the grave, you are telling the family that you were with the solider when he was killed.

According to tradition, the money left at graves in national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries is eventually collected, and the funds are put toward maintaining the cemetery or paying burial costs for indigent veterans.

In the US, this practice became common during the Vietnam war, 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.

Some Vietnam veterans would leave coins as a "down payment" to buy their fallen comrades a beer or play a hand of cards when they would finally be reunited.

The tradition of leaving coins on the headstones of military men and women can be traced to as far back as the Roman Empire.

#2581606 - 01/01/14 09:30 PM Re: Coins left on graves [Re: memareich]
eesmith60 Offline

Registered: 09/04/12
Loc: Long Island, NY, USA
It's my understanding as well.
Just stand closer to the Rhino. grin
Age and treachery beat youth and enthusiasm every time. wink
I trace my family history so I know who to blame. laugh

#2581628 - 01/01/14 09:51 PM Re: Coins left on graves [Re: eesmith60]
GerbLady Offline

Registered: 03/25/05
Loc: Padding my numbers, FL
The tradition of leaving coins on the headstones of military men and women can be traced to as far back as the Roman Empire.

Actually, during the Roman Empire, coins were put into the fallen soldier's mouth for passage/payment into the afterlife. Burial was nothing more than dug in where they fell. This custom probably dates back further but have no idea from where. Three years of Latin and two semesters of early southern European history in college - this was brought up in every one of those classes.

#2582252 - 01/02/14 03:50 PM Re: Coins left on graves [Re: GerbLady]
Big_E_1959 Offline

Registered: 07/01/07
Loc: Missouri

I Have seen a lot of tombstones that have coins never really knew why. Now what about rocks on tombstones?

#2582256 - 01/02/14 03:55 PM Re: Coins left on graves [Re: Big_E_1959]
rottenralf Offline

Registered: 05/16/11
Loc: In the principal's office
Originally Posted By: Big_E_1959

I Have seen a lot of tombstones that have coins never really knew why. Now what about rocks on tombstones?

Rocks are another tradition, stones actually. Mostly a Jewish tradition to leave stone or pebble every time you visit.
Genealogy Is Chasing Your Tale

#2582290 - 01/02/14 04:45 PM Re: Coins left on graves [Re: rottenralf]
Mary G Offline

Registered: 06/22/08
Yeah, never seen coins, but Jewish graves, always stones. If you watch Schindler's List, at the end they show some of the real survivors and the actors who portrayed them visiting Oscar's grave, and each leaving a little pebble.

Jewish people don't generally do flowers on graves.

#2582331 - 01/02/14 05:57 PM Re: Coins left on graves [Re: Mary G]
TMac Offline

Registered: 05/13/03
Loc: Hanging with the bats
I leave a penny for my friends graves when I visit, and if they are far away, I have a penny token to leave on their Find A Grave memorial
Better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

#2582345 - 01/02/14 06:22 PM Re: Coins left on graves [Re: TMac]
BjP Offline

Registered: 04/26/08
Loc: The Illinois Prairie
When I visit my dad's grave, I always leave a rock. We are not Jewish, but Dad always collected cool looking rocks on all their vacation trips and brought them home. I ended up with many of them so I just pick out one and leave one for him. I tried leaving shells from the ocean but they always blew away so this works out best.

#2582429 - 01/02/14 07:47 PM Re: Coins left on graves [Re: BjP]
CemeteryWlkr Offline

Registered: 04/11/07
Loc: southern Minnesota
"Have you ever had the occasion to visit a cemetery and noticed headstones that had coins left on them? Here are some interesting reasons for the ‘tokens’ being left behind.

THE FERRYMAN: By far the most popular reason found for leaving pennies or other coins on headstones is based in Greek Mythology.

According to legend, Charon, the ferryman of Hades, requires payment of one coin to ferry your loved ones soul across the River Styx that separates the living from the dead. Historically, the coins were placed in the mouths of the deceased, or according to some sources, over their eyes.

People who can’t pay the fee are said to be doomed to wander the shores of the river for 100 years.

THE BLACK DONNELLYS: Another popular reason for leaving coins on graves relates to the notorious Donnelly family, known as the Black Donnellys. A longstanding feud with another family resulted in the brutal massacre of five Donnelly family members. Some believe that the Donnelly’s will grant a wish for anyone that leaves a penny on the Donnelly family grave.

This superstition has expanded, and many now believe that a dead loved one will grant a wish if they leave a penny on their headstone, or that the loved one will watch over them and bring them good luck.

MILITARY MESSAGES: According to some, leaving coins on a headstone has very specific meaning for military burials. Generally speaking, a visitor who did not know the deceased well enough to be considered a friend might leave a penny. Someone who went through boot camp or a training class with the deceased might leave a nickel. A friend who served in another platoon within the same company might leave a dime. A buddy who served in the same outfit, or was with the deceased when he died, might leave a quarter.

Apparently this tradition dates back to Roman times, but in the United States started during the Vietnam War as a way to leave messages to the family of the deceased without contacting them directly. Additionally, sometimes coins are left as a “down-payment” to purchase a beer or play a hand of poker when he was eventually re-united with his deceased buddy.

No matter what the intention, it seems clear that a coin left on a headstone is a symbol of remembrance and respect. A way of telling all who pass by that the person buried there was loved and visited often."
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