Challenge coins are custom coins that feature the emblem of an organization or group. They began as a unique tradition in the military, but have spread to other organizations such as fire departments, businesses, nonprofits, schools, and more.
1. Challenge coins are collectible items
Military challenge coins are collector’s items cherished by many. They give the owner a sense of belonging and solidarity with a group or organization. It is not surprising that many people want to have one for its aesthetic value, sentimental value, and collectibility.
Challenge coins are given to members of the military to show membership in a particular group, squad, or base. They also can be issued for specific deployments or battles. Among veterans and collectors, Navy challenge coins are popular.
2. Since 1992, presidents have had their own exclusive challenge coins
Every U.S. President since Bill Clinton has had their own custom challenge coins They can be awarded to anyone in any branch of the United States military, regardless of rank or affiliation with the president. It has been used as a tool for several generations now, and most Presidents since FDR have had their own “challenge” coin.
3. There are rules and traditions associated with challenge coins
While the origins of military challenge coins aren’t clear, the most popular origin story involves a wealthy lieutenant in World War I in the Army Air Corps. According to legend, the lieutenant had custom coins made for all the members of his squad.
When one member was shot down and captured by enemy forces, they stripped him of his identification, but he kept the coin, worn in a pouch around his neck.
The soldier later escaped into French territory. When the French army were unable to identify him, they were preparing to execute him as a German spy. Instead, he produced his coin, which the French recognized, and they returned him safely to his unit.
With that began the tradition of carrying the challenge coin everywhere. Any service member can initiate a “coin check” at any time. He does so by showing his own coin and challenging others to do the same. If everyone else has their coin, he buys the next round. If someone doesn’t have their coin, or can’t produce it quickly enough, they buy the round instead.
The rules are clear: Coin recipients must have their coin with them at all times, whether clothed or unclothed, day or night. (Yes, that includes in the shower.) A coin cannot be made into a necklace, medallion, belt buckle or other form. And everyone present must know the rules before initiating a coin check.
4. Military challenge coins are a great marketing tool
These coins can be given to recruits, family, and friends. The coins are often used at military events and even in the corporate world. Some of the most sought-after coins come from units that have performed heroic acts. Challenge coins have been around for decades, but recently they have become a popular marketing tool.
Remember, when a person gives someone a challenge coin, one gives them recognition in front of their peers. It is essential to order challenge coins from a company with a good reputation for making state-of-the-art products. Look for a company that takes pride in its work, to get an exceptional product.
5. They commemorate civilian events as well
Some organizations use challenge coins to commemorate civilian events that are significant to them. For example, if someone has been promoted or accomplished a major achievement in their job, then having a challenge coin created would be an excellent way for the group or organization to give the individual or group recognition for their accomplishments.
Because of their popularity, there will always be a demand for these kinds of coins from organizations and companies. They will show how much value the organization places on employees. It can also help with team building because having a challenge coin awarded gives an opportunity for everyone to come together and bond over the experience.
It’s safe to say that challenge coins offer much more than many people realize. They can indicate membership, help boost morale, even increase sales. They’ve moved far beyond their military origins into the larger world. Challenge coins have become increasingly popular among civilians, and many military veteran associations sell them to raise funds as well.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website's content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra's expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.