Military challenge coins have an interesting history and can be used as reminders of special events or friends. Here are some facts you need to know about them.
A majority of military veterans report missing the camaraderie and special social network that enlisted service members leave behind after their tour. One of the special ways that veterans and active members connect with one another is through challenge coins. Military challenge coins play a unique role in the social aspect of service duty after veterans return
If you're new to the concept of challenge coins or if you've just received your first one, you should get to know what they're all about. Here are six facts about military challenge coins that you probably didn't know.
1. Military Challenge Coins Are Collector's Items
Go to any flea market or military supply show and you're sure to come across a few display cases worth of challenge coins. Every coin has its own story and they are often tied to the history of a particular mission, unit, or organization. Because they're fairly easy to produce, offices can produce enough to distribute to every member.
Military challenge coins can also vary in value. While there are rare coins made of solid gold, others are made of brass or zinc. Regardless of what the materials cost, the choice to use different materials can have a big effect on the end result.
Custom challenge coins are made with a focus on every detail. This makes them exceptional collectors’ items since two coins from the same batch can still be significantly different.
Challenge coins, in general, are made in batches and limited runs. Because of this, the number of each coin is severely limited. Aside from that, challenge coins in smaller batches can be difficult to track down if you want to add it to your collection. All of these factors affect the collectors’ value for each coin.
If you know of anyone who was in the military, they might have a coin or two that are sitting and collecting dust under the bed. Ask around so you can start building your collection.
2. History Buffs Love Challenge Coins
If you or anyone you know has a deep love of history and military campaigns, challenge coins can be great centerpieces for conversation.
History buffs might know that military challenge coins were given out in ancient Rome after a soldier returned from a particularly serious battle. They were replaced with other symbols until the first World War where one rich lieutenant made them for his own unit.
During that war, one soldier rescued by American allies was assumed to be German or to be a spy. The only piece of identification he had was the bronze coin his lieutenant had offered him.
By presenting his coin, he was supposedly spared from death at the hands of his own country's allies. This is what gave them the name "challenge coins" and made them a practical and powerful instrument in the fog of war.
Challenge coins are valuable to history buffs because they are often tied to specific events. It is common for military and government organizations to have coins made for missions, deployments, and other special events. Each coin shows a piece of the history surrounding it, and history buffs like to decipher the stories that their coins can tell.
3. They Are Expected To Be Presented
The instances of being presented with a challenge where you have to show your coin are rare and specific. To increase morale, troops decided to find other reasons to have to present them. One is a game where the last person to put down their military challenge coin on the table needs to buy the next round of drinks.
This comes from a German drinking tradition where one person calls for everyone to put a penny or pfennig on the table.
While there were still some instances where the coins would need to be used for identification, over time it became more of a morale booster. You could be in a bar and suddenly hear a cacophony of slams and realize it's time to slam your own on the table.
In other cases, people just like to show off their challenge coins. The minute details, exceptional craftsmanship, and story behind your coins is a reason to show them to anyone that is interested. In this way, challenge coins are great at bringing people together.
4. Coins Can Be A Recruiting Tool
Inside and outside of the military, challenge coins can be used to recruit new members. They are passed during a handshake to tell new members that they are one of the in-crowd.
They provide a symbolic representation of achievements and alliances to be made by joining a group. It could be something as clandestine as a secret society or something as important as a fire department.
Even though they were created to acknowledge the service of military staff, they are now used in civilian life for all kinds of recruitment efforts.
5. They Commemorate Civilian Events
Although challenge coins started as a military tradition, they have found their way into civilian organizations as well. There are many companies that have custom challenge coins made for their employees. Like their military counterparts, civilian challenge coins are made to commemorate special events.
The range of reasons why challenge coins are made is endless. For companies, they can be made to recognize the achievements of their best sales staff. In the military, a special deployment can be a reason for a challenge coin as well. As the price to produce them has decreased, they can even be used for something like commemorating a family trip or birthday. The possibilities continue to grow as challenge coins find their way into popular culture.
Even within the military, the exchange of coins is more tied to camaraderie and social networking than for their identifying purpose. You will still find some groups keeping up the tradition of the drink-buying challenge.
You now find interesting custom logos from organizations, corporations, and social clubs all throughout the challenge coin world. They can now be found honoring people who reach a special executive or cultural achievement as often as they'll be given out within the military.
6. Most Presidents Have a Special One
Since the 1990s, presidents have been creating and handing out their own challenge coins. They will make one version available in gift shops and for the general public. A special version is reserved to honor the achievements of some civilians.
The last few vice presidents have also produced their own challenge coins to hand out in honor of some civilians.
If you ever get recognized by the president for your contributions to the country, expect to be handed one directly from them.
Military Challenge Coins Create History
When someone commissions a challenge coin for their company, association, or military group, they are creating a marker of history. Each person who receives one is known to have a special connection to the event or the organization depicted on the coin. This makes everyone involved feel uniquely tied to an elite group of people.
If you're interested in learning more about military challenge coins, read our articles to learn more. If you are interested in making your own custom challenge coin, complete our form to get started!