The Challenge Coin Is Something Few People Know About But Those Who Do These Coins Are Very Symbolic And Meaningful Learn More About The History Of Challenge Coins And The Rules Of Giving/receiving Them In Our Article
Never heard of a challenge coin? Don’t worry — you’re not the only one. The reality, though, is that the challenge coin has a long and intriguing history.
Although the challenge coin is something that few people know about, these coins are very symbolic and meaningful among those who have received them.
Here’s a glimpse at the history of the challenge coin and at the rules you’ll need to follow when giving and receiving them.
Let’s get started!
The Different Challenge Coin Styles
As mentioned the traditional challenge coin is a round shaped coin that is about 1.75 or 2 in diameter.
However, as challenge coins have gotten increasingly popular over time, people have had to differentiate their coins by getting increasingly creative in their designs. Now, coins feature any number of different shapes, from the recognizable to the non recognizable. Some coins also feature cutouts, which are holes within the coin that go clear through to the other side.
Another way people are making new challenge coins is by turning them into bottle openers, and thus keeping going the proud military tradition of drinking beer. We can fit bottle openers into a variety of different shapes and placements in order to get creative as well.
Origins Of The Challenge Coin In Usa
Like many aspects of military tradition, the origins of the challenge coin are a matter of much debate with little supporting evidence. While many organizations and services claim to have been the originators of the challenge coin, the most commonly held view is that the tradition began in the Army Air Corps .
Air warfare was a new phenomenon during World War I. When the Army created flying squadrons they were manned with volunteer pilots from every walk of civilian life. While some of the early pilots came from working class or rural backgrounds, many were wealthy college students who withdrew from classes in the middle of the year, drawn by the adventure and romance of the new form of warfare.
The pilot avoided German patrols by donning civilian attire, but all of his identification had been confiscated so he had no way to prove his identity. With great difficulty, he crept across no-mans land and made contact with a French patrol. Unfortunately for him, the French had been on the lookout for German saboteurs dressed as civilians. The French mistook the American pilot for a German saboteur and immediately prepared to execute him.
Desperate to prove his allegiance and without any identification, the pilot pulled out the coin from his leather pouch and showed it to his French captors. One of the Frenchmen recognized the unit insignia on the coin and delayed the execution long enough to confirm the pilot’s identity.
You May Like: Does Sears Give Military Discount On Appliances
My Story: Military Challenge Coins After A Decade In The Army
Collecting military challenge coins is something that service members understand. However, those outside the military may have never seen them before or comprehend their unique history. Many purposes are served by challenge coins in the military. One is to reward exceptional performance during training or combat operations. Rewarding excellence is commonly utilized among military leaders to incentivize excellence and raise the morale of a unit. At other times coins are awarded to all service members involved in a particular unit or mission. This shows that each Solider awarded the coin belongs to that unit or contributed to the mission. When I see a military challenge coin, I try to identify the unit, operation, or other insignia to determine if I recognize those features.
I was unaware of the traditions of military challenge coins until I arrived at West Point. As a cadet at the United States Military Academy, I often interacted with Army officers and senior non-commissioned officers who had on their desk or in their office a large collection of military challenge coins. I would sometimes recognize the unit insignia of a well known Army unit or a combat operation or training center that was displayed on a specific coin.
What Is The Challenge
The challenge associated with challenge coins varies between groups but is typically associated with drinking. The most common version is as follows:
It is believed that the original purpose of the challenge was to produce a coin for security purposes, as those unable to show their coin were thought to be impostors. In the case of the 10th Special Forces Group in the late 1940s, it was a way to identify members, as many came from different nationalities. As better security systems were put into place, the challenge coin fell out of official use, though it still remains a valued tradition.
Also Check: Army Rangers Asvab Score
Whats A Challenge Coin Used For
The purpose of challenge coins is to commemorate a special achievement or bestow membership into a distinguished group. For instance, these coins may be used to signify membership to an elite group of firefighters. It could also be used to commemorate an event, such as 9/11 in the United States.
They may represent units, teams, or organizations. They may also be used for anniversaries, achievements, or special events. They remind people of their lasting bonds with others who hold the same coin.
Outside of military or national organizations, theyre mostly used by civilian groups to represent business achievements.
Post War Challenge Coin History
After the war in Germany, American soldiers took to keeping the smallest coin, the pfennig, on them. If a buddy called pfennig check any soldier who could not show their pfennig coin, was expected to buy everybody a drink. Carrying a coin became necessary to avoid a hefty drink bill.
The tradition may have taken hold among special forces in Vietnam and then spread to other units. Challenge coins were being minted to represent individual units. Each coin represented the identity of the unit.
A Colonel Green in the 1960s had a coin minted with a crest and motto representing his unit. By the 1980s minting, awarding, and carrying challenge coins became widespread. As units wanted their own coins the range of coins increased.
You May Like: Can You Have Autism In The Military
How The Challenge Began
The legend of Challenge Coins as a lucky token took flight in the First World War, when a US Lieutenant had coins struck for each member of his squadron. For one pilot shot down behind enemy lines, the coin proved to be a lifeline. Stripped of his dog tags, the pilot used his Challenge Coin to prove to allied French troops that he was not a spy. It saved his life.
Following their use as a badge of identity, the Challenge Coin tradition evolved to individual military personnel being challenged to display their units coin as a sign of belonging. If the coin could not be produced, the soldier had to complete a challenge to prove their team spirit. Today soldiers exchange Challenge Coins with colleagues as a memento of mateship. The coin holder can still be challenged, but this is performed with more esprit de corps !
A Challenge Coin Tells A Story
A challenge coin is unique, is limited in production, and tells a story: a story not only about the organization but also about the person who received it and the person who made it.
They are given out as informal awards for a job well done, for participation in a major eventsuch as military ceremonies and ball or anniversariesor even to promote a business or organization to customers or outside officials.
Many people even make challenge coin business cards for this purpose, since most people throw away paper cards and instead are using metal coins with a shape of their choosing to represent themselves and give to big or prospectively big customers.
In some cases, challenge coins are also commissioned and sold for fundraising purposes, specifically to be used for disaster relief. We are making a coin for a customer who wants to use the proceeds of the coins sale to benefit Hurricane Harvey victims, for example.
When we tell people what challenge coins are out in the everyday world, they often have no idea and are surprised to hear it is such a big thing. It is like that even for people in the military or in government organizations, with a large number of people making their own custom coins and selling them to colleagues and trading networks for coin collectors helping to facilitate things. Challenge coins are a competitive world, with people continually advancing the envelope of what is possible.
Don’t Miss: Cox Veterans Discount
Medal Of Honor Recipient Coins
Some recipients of the Medal of Honor have challenge coins to give to troops and veterans.
Getting to shake the hand of a true American hero is impressive. But, if youre also lucky enough to receive a Medal of Honor challenge coin, youll never have to buy a round in a coin check.
Just make sure to always have it on you!
The Eagle And Angler Latch On To The Idea
Prior to the 1990s, military challenge coins were seemingly only prominent with the members of the United States Armed Forces and limited to specific military units with a deep history and lineage. After that timeframe, challenge coins seemed to explode in all sectors of government and the private sector as leaders and organizations recognized the value of challenge coins and their uniqueness in quickly acknowledging people on the spot.
The first president of the United States to stamp a personal challenge coin was number 42, President William Jefferson Clinton. With that, the first vice president to mint his own coin was number 46, Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney. President George W. Bush often presented his POTUS challenge coin to wounded and injured troops returning from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Barack Obama made it a point to present his POTUS challenge coin to the service member stationed at the stairs of Air Force One as he boarded the plane. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates presented his SECDEF challenge coins to the troops in Afghanistan during his visit in 2011, and often presented them to the troops as he visited them around the world.
You May Like: Does Sears Have Military Discount
Challenge Coins Outside Of The Military
Challenge coins are also exchanged outside the military. NASCAR, the NFL, Eagle Scouts and World Series of Poker all have their own challenge coins. They are also becoming popular with Police Departments, Fire Departments and Fraternal organizations. In 2007, the Utah Symphony and Opera gave challenge coins to all of its staff and musicians, making it the first symphony organization in America to do so. Challenge coins are also presented to veteran members of the Glamisdunes.com flag ceremony in November.
Members of the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers Motorcycle Club must earn their challenge coin.
Another organization in which challenge coins have gained popularity is the “National Association of Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers Motorcycle Club” which has over 85 chapters totaling over 2,000 members. The coin is 1.75 inches in diameter, minted in solid brass with an antique finish. The front of the coin bears the NABSTMC Buffalo Soldier Logo. Also depicted is the year the club was established, which was 1999. The back of the coin proudly displays the “Cavalry Charge” with the motto of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers “We Can, We Will” and “Ready Forward”. The coin must be earned by the members and can only be presented by a National Officer or Chapter President for a noteworthy accomplishment.
Even video game companies like Treyarch gave these coins with certain packages for the release of Black Ops 2
The History Of Challenge Coins
Although nobody knows for certain when and where challenge coins originated, it is widely accepted that the tradition began amongst soldiers in the military. The earliest known account dates back to Ancient Rome, where special coins were given to soldiers as a token of appreciation for valor in battle. Some historians claim that these coins were uniquely marked with their legionâs insignia, prompting many soldiers to keep them as souvenirs.
Another origin story, though likely a myth, can be traced back to World War I. There, it is alleged that an officer of the Allied Powers stamped bronze medallions with the insignia of his flight squadron and distributed them to his soldiers. One of them was shot down over Germany but managed to escape back to France.
Upon arrival, the soldiers took him for German spy and attempted to execute him. Trying to clear his name, the pilot showed his medallion. One soldier recognized it, and his identity was soon confirmed, hence saving his life.
But how did these coins evolve from simply memorabilia into a challenge? Some say that the challenge was brought back by the America GIs that frequented the bars in occupied Germany after World War II. There, locals often performed âpfennig checksâ on each other, and whoever could not produce a pfennig had to buy a round of drinks for those who could.
You May Like: If You Have Autism Can You Join The Military
Where Else Are Challenge Coins Used
Organizations outside of the military can also have and use challenge coins. If you are a part of a fire department or police department, for instance, you will be issued a challenge coin. These coins are sometimes called first responders challenge coins.
Civilian corporations can have and use challenge coins. In these cases, the purpose of challenge coins is branding. They are handed out at events, conferences, shows, etc. The coins function like a business card but are more impressive and memorable. Even sports teams and schools have their own challenge coins featuring their logo and/or mascot.
Military challenges coins are not limited to usage in the U.S. They are also available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.
These coins are also collector items that can be found in flea markets and army supply stores. They are history buffs and military enthusiasts sought-after items. You can search online as well there are more sources that sell Army challenge coins than you might think!
Who Uses Challenge Coins
These days, challenge coins are no longer exclusive to the armed forces, although military coins are still a common tradition. Their popularity has evolved beyond the ranks of active-duty and retired government agency personnel and now extends to many other fields.
Presidents and Politicians
Since the election of Bill Clinton, each president has had his own unique challenge coin, and since Dick Chaney, the vice president has had one too. Within each term, there are typically several presidential challenge coins, such as the ones commemorating the inauguration and the administration. There is also usually one available to the general public. However, there is only one official presidential coin, and that is perhaps the most sought-after of all.
The President of the United State may give out his personal challenge coins at his own discretion. Most presidents reserve them for military personnel, foreign dignitaries, or special occasions. For example, George W. Bush saved his for injured soldiers returning from duty in the Middle East.
The challenge coin tradition has carried over to the emergency services and many first responder groups such as EMS, firefighters, and law enforcement agencies use them today. Each coin has a unique design and bears a special honor. They are often given out to acknowledge acts of bravery, to commemorate retirement or, to help raise funds for a good cause.
Read Also: Can You Join The Military If You Have Autism
Details About Awesome 15 Us Navy Military Challenge Coin Uss Laboon Ddg
Awesome 1.5 US Navy Military Challenge Coin USS Laboon DDG-58 Plank Owner. Pictures show actual item being sold. Pre-owned in good used condition.. Condition: Used: An item that has been used previously. See the sellers listing for full details and description of any imperfections. See all condition definitions Subject: Military Featured Refinements: CPO Challenge Coin .
The Challenge Coin Origin Story
Sadly, there is no one accepted story that explains the origins of military challenge coins. The practice may extend all the way to ancient Rome, where it was standard practice to award a bonus with the usual days pay for those who excelled.
The bonus came in the form of a specially minted coin that was technically currency but was often kept as a memento.
The Earliest Challenge Coin?
From World War One, there is a challenge coin origin story that may or may not have basis in fact An early version of the contemporary challenge coin saved a pilots life after escaping the Germans during World War One. The pilot escaped to France where he was arrested as a spy and led to execution.
But before the execution could take place, the pilot convinced his captors to look at the one item he managed to hang on to after German troops had confiscated all his other possessions upon capture. That item was a bronze coin featuring the logo of the pilots flying unit- created and distributed to the crews by a well-to-do officer.
The pilots identity was verified thanks to the coin, and he was not executed.
There are similar stories, none of which have the definitive origin the use of coins became quite popular thanks in part to some who served during the Vietnam War era. The Department of Defense official site includes a tale of a Special Forces member who is said to have taken old coins and had them re-stamped with unit emblems.
Read Also: Does Sears Have Military Discount