COINS LEFT ON TOMBSTONES

Tomorrow, Monday 27th May, is a Spring Bank Holiday in England and Wales. Bank holidays take their name from the fact that banks, government offices and most businesses are closed on these day. And it’s a day off work for most people.

Americans will also celebrate their ‘bank’ holiday tomorrow. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in military service for the country. Banks will also close.What I am about to tell you can be found in numerous places on the Web, but you may not have heard it before and you can always check for yourself. Briefly, the account states:

COINS LEFT ON TOMBSTONES

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 soldier 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.vIn 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.

Courtesy Snopes

According to Snopes this is an urban myth; a lot of baloney

“Despite the claim of this tradition’s dating back to the days of the Roman Empire, there’s no reason to suppose that it does . . . given the lack of documentation attesting to the origins and consistency of this ‘tradition,’ it is perhaps best regarded not as an actual common practice but instead as someone’s idealised legend of what should be.”

Don’t believe everything you read on the Net. Unless, of course, one of my American subscribers can tell me otherwise. As the TV host says when wanting viewers participation, I’M WAITING FOR YOUR CALL. I have an open mind. There are several stories of coins being stolen from tombstones. See here . . . and here .

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  1. I had never heard that part about the coins being left on the tombstones of soldiers, John. If it is true [and I hope it is] then it is a very meaningful gesture on the visitors part.

    I remember when I was a lad, visiting my cousins. Just below their place, there was a Chinese cemetery.. and we would go down there to have a look.. Very often, we would find coins on the graves. Being young lads, we did not know any better and the money was soon exchanged for candy.. But upon many, many years of reflection, these coins would have had some very great significance

    Many thanks

    Micheal

  2. As a lot of people only visit family graves once or twice a year i would think that the coins would be long gone before they were seen by relatives. I agree with Snopes. I don’t think the Veteran affairs organisations would be funding much from the quarters left behind.

  3. True or not, it is worth remembering the fallen and those whose lives have been permanently affected from surviving a combat zone.

  4. In the 70’s I lived behind Brompton Cemetery in SW London. Many a Sunday morning walk was taken here. Did see various nationality of graves with plastic wallets with their own currency notes. Perhaps it is their way of making sure their loved ones are able to pay their way on the other side?
    Interesting subject.