Coins on a Headstone: Five Little-Known Facts About Grave Decorations

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Have you ever seen letters, photos, or coins on a headstone? These traditional mementos represent a way to honor the departed.

Honoring those who have passed on has always been an important aspect of human lives. We mourn their loss and cherish their memory in a variety of ways around the world. Memorials, wakes, and elaborate funerals are all outward representations of mourning and an effort to show our love and respect for those who have passed on. In the United States, one of the preferred ways is through the decoration of graves with flowers, wreaths, or other symbolic trinkets.

In this article, we will explore the many ways you can decorate the grave of the dearly departed.

Coins on a Headstone

Traditionally, coins have been left on the graves of America's military veterans. Leaving change on the headstone tells loved ones of the departed soldier's family know that someone has come to visit the grave. Each type of coin holds a different meaning. Leaving a penny signifies that you visited and want to thank the veteran for their service. A nickel left at a grave means you trained at boot camp with the deceased serviceperson, while a dime suggests you served with them. Finally, a quarter signifies that you were with the serviceperson when they passed away. It’s a loving and practical way to honor fallen comrades and their families throughout the year.

Fresh Flowers

In America, flowers are the most common gravesite adornment. It’s important to note that cemeteries each have their own rules about the types of decorations that can be placed on graves, so check their regulations before leaving anything behind. When choosing fresh flowers for the site, think about the departed. What flowers or colors did they prefer? Selecting something that suits their tastes adds more meaning to the display. You may want to forego the standard carnations in favor of your loved one’s favorite tulips or lilacs, for example.

Artificial Flowers

When cemeteries do not allow fresh flowers to be placed on graves, they usually permit artificial flower arrangements instead. Although they are more durable than fresh flowers, they do fade over time and will eventually need to be replaced. They can be a more practical and economical option, especially if you aren’t able to visit the gravesite regularly.


For many Christians, leaving candles on graves is a symbol of faith in the resurrection and promise of eternal life. Practiced for centuries, this tradition is still prevalent in modern cemeteries around the world. On the traditional Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), families celebrate by placing candles on the graves of their loved ones as part of the ofrenda. Before placing a candle on a gravestone, it’s important to make sure that it does not violate any cemetery rules. 

Handwritten Notes

Writing letters to those who have passed is a time-honored tradition. It allows those left behind to maintain a connection to the departed and delivers an avenue of communication that can still be meaningful and fulfilling in its own way. It also helps the bereaved work through grief and loss by putting those emotions to paper. Further healing can be found by bringing the notes to the loved one’s final resting place. If you are not the type to write lengthy letters, consider bringing a card instead. Greeting cards are perfect for commemorating special occasions like holidays and birthdays.


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Photos allow memories to be frozen in time so that they can be looked back on and cherished. It’s no surprise that they are frequently found on gravesites as a way to honor the memory of deceased loved ones. You may want to leave a photo of your wedding at the grave of your mother or a picture of the kids for their grandpop, for instance.

Today, we continue these traditions in ways that reflect our personal preferences and relationships with the departed. We leave coins on a headstone or adorn a grave with flowers because our loved ones remain in our hearts and minds long after they are gone.

If you have questions about gravestone decorations or if you wish to make arrangements for a loved one, we are here to help. Please reach out to our caring professionals anytime.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 25 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information about our funeral, cremation, memorial, repast, and grief counseling services, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at

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