Is It Weird I Remember This? Coins Left On Headstones

Coins Left On Headstones(photo courtesy of

Is It Weird I Remember This? Coins Left On Headstones

Coins left on headstones was actually a part of a dream I had the other night. Weird, right? It’s coming up on my dad’s birthday pretty soon and since his death in 2007, I always have weird dreams around his birthday and the day he died. (story for another day) But, in this dream, we were walking through a cemetery looking for the headstones of our long passed relatives. Which, I really remember doing as a kid with him. But, in the dream we noticed there were coins left on headstones. I asked him why people would do that and we sat right down there in the grass and he told me a story. Like a picnic, but without the snacks and ants.


Coins Left On Headstones

I’m not certain where my dream turned from actual memory into ‘just dream’. But, this is how his story went. He explained that sometimes visitors leave coins on headstones marking graves of their loved ones who’ve passed that were members of the military as a sign of respect. These are known as Challenge Coins. Sometimes, they also leave coins as a sort of ‘funny’ tribute. Like… “Here’s a quarter, buy yourself a beer when you get to Heaven and wait for me”. Since my oldest son Frank is in the Army, I couldn’t help but wonder if my dream was my dad’s way of trying to tell me something. He’s deploying to Afghanistan soon, so it kind of scared the bejezus out of me and I did some searching to find out exactly what the deal was. It was interesting to learn the meaning behind leaving coins on headstones. But at the same time, maybe I shouldn’t have checked it out…

I learned the Challenge Coins have specific meanings when left on headstones. A tribute to those who gave their life while serving in the military, and the meanings vary depending on the denomination of coin. (here’s where I kinda freaked out a bit)

Coins Left On Headstones

(photo courtesy of

Tradition goes, coins left on headstones or near grave sites was actually a message to the deceased soldier’s family. Depending on the denomination, each ‘message’ means something different. Leaving a penny means that you visited. A nickel says that you and the deceased soldier trained at boot camp together. And, a dime means you actually served with him/her. Kinda sad but, leaving a quarter on the headstone is telling the family that you were with the solider when they were killed. It’s a super nice thing to do, but still left me a bit uneasy considering Frank is headed ‘over there’.

In the photo above, you can see President and Mrs. Obama visiting victims of 9/11 who were killed inside the Pentagon. Paying their respects with coins left on headstones.

How Did It Start? Coins Left On Headstones?

Apparently, today, you can custom order Challenge Coins but, In the US, supposedly this practice became quite common during the Vietnam War. Because there was such political divide and the support for veterans back then was really pretty crappy, coins left on headstones was a quiet, personal way to just say “Hey, I was here. Thanks for giving all” Thankfully, today we honor those returning with parades, and a much deserved public recognition of  their time, service and sacrifice. I even found a site that let’s you create lapel pins from images on these Challenge Coins. Again, super col how far we’ve come in supporting our soldiers!

So, what do you think? Was my dream just a dream about my dad because his birthday is coming up? Or, do you think he’s trying to tell me something? I’m kinda torn on this.


  1. I think you are anxious about your son’s deployment. My thoughts are with you – my family is a “miltary” family, and my best friend did two tours in Iraq.

  2. I say go with your gut feeling in that he might be trying to get a message to you. Maybe its just a special reminder about important times you spent together. I’ve never heard of this practice so this was a great eye opener and awesome read. Thanks for sharing 😉

  3. I’d like to think he’s trying to tell you something. My husband has dreams about his grandparents quite often and I like to think that they are coming back to visit him. 🙂

  4. I kind of believe that the dream world is a way that past loved ones can communicate with us to let us know that they’re okay, as well as guide us. Could be a coincidence that he came around the time of his birthday, since your thoughts were there with him, but I believe he was probably trying to tell you something.

  5. That’s a strange dream. I actually didn’t know anything about the challenge coins tradition.

  6. Seeing as we are former military. This means a lot to me. We have friends who never came back from Iraq. Thankfully my husband did. I will keep your son in my prayers as he ventures over there.

  7. I have heard my dad share a little bit about the history behind leaving coins on graves. He is a Vietnam Veteran. I am sure your dream was just a mixture of the thoughts in your head about your son’s deployment and the anniversary of your dad’s passing. Our minds continue to wonder while we are sleeping. Also I wanted to say thank you to your family for your dad’s service and to your son for his service too. I’m a proud Veteran’s daughter and very supportive of the military and our military families so thank you & prayers for your son’s safe return home!

  8. That is so interesting

  9. I had never heard of that with the coins, but what a beautiful honor. I’m sure your son about to be deployed only added to this dream. I can’t imagine how anxious you are about your son – heaven knows I would be.

  10. I have seen this in graveyards and think it’s a lovely sentiment! I will be sending you some good vibes during your son’s deployment! xoxo

  11. I’m a veteran and challenge coins are a huge deal. Not in this sense, but in a different sense. I bet your son even has a couple of actual challenge coins. I think this is a really sweet sentiment, but I don’t think you should worry. I think your mind is just overwhelmed with worry for your son.

  12. Super interesting! I never knew about the coins before! I hope you figure out what your dream is about. I’m sure you’ve been thinking about him a lot lately and that’s why he’s coming to you in your dreams as well. Great post 🙂

  13. I have never seen or heard of this. It is so neat and interesting. I do believe that he is sending you a message but a positive one! I think he is trying to tell you that he is with you and watching over your son.

  14. I have never heard of this before. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be for you with your son over there. When I get dreams that relate like that, I tend to get worked up. But I do think the tradition of very interesting

  15. I think sometimes we have dreams just because, I sometimes dream of my grandma they seem so real I can smell her. As far as your dream I think you are missing him

  16. Karen Glatt says

    I have never heard of this or have ever seen coins on Headstones. But I found this post to be such an eye opener. I will be thinking of all those who have served and have gone on. I have a relative that died serving our country. Next time I visit his grave, I am going to leave a coin. What a nice tribute to the military person to remember them by.

  17. I’ve never seen coins on headstones but I would be afraid of people chipping away at my headstone to get them! I’m the kind of person who grabs coins from fountains so of course I think of that, haha 🙂

  18. Donna Cheatle says

    I think this is probably a jumble of things. You’re remembering and missing your dad so he’s on your mind. You’re obviously worried about your son and his deployment. Somehow in your dream those two stressed combined with a memory. I honestly don’t think it’s your Dad trying to warn you of impending danger for your boy. I think it’s more a manifestation of your worry than anything else.
    Just my opinion

  19. I just stumbled across a pic of this recently on the net, had not heard of this before.

  20. I think it was just a reminder of your father’s birthday coming up. His way of letting you know he is still with you. I love the meaning be hind the coins being left behind. I never really knew what they meant. Thanks for sharing.

  21. That is amazing how your dream actually meant something that is true in life. I personally have never heard of leaving coins on gravestones. My son is 30 and didn’t enlist and has never been called to duty. (thank goodness) His father was in the Marines and was in Vietnam for 10 years, so boy does he have stories to tell. My father was in the Army and is buried in an armed forces cemetery, but when I’ve went to visit him, I never remember seeing any coins. How strange. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your family and your son.

  22. Marti Parks says

    I never knew the meaning of the coins left on graves or headstones, very interesting. I think your dream is just an indication of your concern for your son.

  23. Tami Valentine says

    I’ve never heard of this tradition or ritual….but go with your feeling. I’ve had strange dreams and there was always a reason why…

  24. Wow! That is really trippy! I never had heard of this before. ..

  25. Jennifer Johansen says

    Learn something new every day. I love this idea of leaving coins. It’s a lovely sentiment. Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the dream. It’s probably just internalized anxiety. Understandable.

  26. Jessica Houston says

    Wow I never known that about leaving coins on tombstone and I have family in the military.
    Thank you for sharing this!!

  27. Challenge coins aren’t left on tombstones. You have two different customs mixed up. Research before you post.