There are over 12,000 local police departments in the United States alone. It's easy for individual officers to feel lost and unimportant in this massive mob.
A police challenge coin helps remedy this issue. It provides a recognizable emblem to commemorate exceptional service and bring a unit together.
Creating police challenge coins requires tools and extensive knowledge of metalworking. Professionals can customize them using the right materials, logo, and designs.
The more you know about what challenge coins are and how they work, the easier it will be to create the perfect one. Read our guide to learn what a police challenge coin is, how they're created, how to use them, and where to get them.
What Is a Challenge Coin?
Challenge coins have a long but hotly debated history. Most historians agree that they began with the Roman army giving medallions to soldiers, but the waters get muddier from there.
There are stories of an officer who escaped death at the hands of the French during WWII by showing his medallion and proving he wasn't a German spy. This may be the first example of a challenge coin, but there is doubt.
All challenge coins use a logo, motto, and/or insignia to identify the owner's group or unit. The designs differ and can be customized.
Police challenge coins fit all the requirements of what makes a challenge coin but provide unique benefits to the force as a whole. They help build unity within the police force by providing a symbol for members to bond over.
Receiving a Challenge Coin
Challenge coins are rewards for exceptional service. They're given using a special ritual where the coin is passed to the honoree in a quick but special ceremony in the presence of onlookers.
The coin is handed off to the recipient in a special handshake. It happens so quickly that you could almost blink and miss it.
Challenge coins used to be reserved for members of the military, but their usage has expanded since then. Today they can be given to members of several service professions, including law enforcement.
Police challenge coins aren't given out only to members of law enforcement. They can also be given to civilians during community events such as fundraising efforts.
The logo and design on the coin tie you to the specific branch or area of law enforcement you received it from. This fosters a sense of unity and belonging.
Most recipients take care of their challenge coins. They store them in a safe place at home and keep them with them at all times and when out and about.
How a Make a Police Challenge Coin
Challenge coins come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from the typical circle to pentagons, spades, and dog tags. A typical police challenge coin is round and about 1.75 inches.
The most popular plating options for challenge coins are gold and nickel, but other options exist as well. Copper, black nickel, and iridescent or rainbow anodized metal work just as well.
Custom challenge coins provide even more options for designs and materials. They allow you to create the exact look you want.
Challenge coins are affordable and cost only $5-$12 each. Agencies may spend thousands of dollars to buy them in bulk and gain the benefits they provide.
Whatever methods are used to make a police challenge coin, it must have the right emotional significance. Choose the name of the station and/or unit, an important image, and other elements to create a meaningful design.
How to Use a Police Challenge Coin
Receiving a challenge coin is a sign of honor and recognition for exceptional service. It also helps create unity with your fellow servicemen.
Displaying the coin in your home in a safe place is one way to use it. Choose a special shelf or area in your home to keep a copy.
Having your coin on hand is best if you want to participate in a coin check. This tradition is a more enjoyable and public way to show off and use your police challenge coin.
The coin check is a betting game used to determine who has to pay for drinks at a bar. Anyone with a challenge coin can and should participate.
The history of the challenge coin and the coin check is fuzzy. The tradition of using medallions or coins to bet on who had to pay for drinks may date back to Germany in World War II.
The pfennig was the lowest value of German coin at the time, and anyone who didn't have one when the bill came was stuck with the drink tab. Military members built on this tradition by using their challenge coins instead.
A police challenge coin is an entertaining way to get in on this game. If you're going to do it properly, you should know your challenge coin etiquette. Be sure to:
- Explain the rules first
- Carry and present your coin
- Remember that challenges can happen at any time
- Let the challenger state the terms
- Never pass your coin to someone
- Never drill a hole into your coin or damage it
- Participate if you have a coin
As long as you follow the rules, you can have a great time engaging in coin checks with your friends and fellow service members. It will also encourage you to keep your coin with you at all times.
How to Get Challenge Coins
Police challenge coins are part of the time-honored tradition. It involves giving medallions with the name of and/or images that represent a group to members who went above and beyond the call of duty.
No one knows exactly when challenge coins began circulating, but they now serve as a symbol of unity and recognition of service. A proper design is difficult to make but serves as a great keepsake and a way to engage in coin checks.