A Brief History of Challenge Coin Tradition.
You may not be familiar with challenge coins as a historic tradition. It’s also a possibility that you have come across challenge coins but were not aware that the coins were in fact challenge coins. If you are a civilian who grew up with no direct contact with the military lifestyle or any other similar authority, then your lack of knowledge regarding challenge coins is completely acceptable.
Challenge coins are like a token or a medallion. It signifies that you are a part of a respectable unit and carry the coin like an honor. Challenge coins look somewhat similar to standard coins but the design differs greatly which vastly separates challenge coins from standard coins. A challenge coin can range from 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter and is a one-tenth inch thick. It is not only the size that can vary, some designs do not look like coins at all.
Tracking the History of Challenge Coins
The origins and history of the challenge coins are quite confusing. Nobody has a definite answer on the very first challenge coin or when the tradition the actually began. Some people say that the tradition of the custom challenge coins may have begun hundreds of years ago during the ancient roman times while others narrow it down to 50 years. During ancient Rome Challenge coins were also known as “Portrait Medals” and were used to commemorate specific events involving royalty and nobility.
If we go way back in history, then a soldier being awarded a monetary reward for valor could be rewarded with a challenge coin. If the soldier had shown extraordinary efforts, he was rewarded with an extra challenge coin. Some countries minted the coin with a particular insignia so that the coin would not be wasted but kept as a memento instead.
On a later note in history, there is a more common story associated with custom challenge coins. During the World War One, an American fighter pilot was shot down and captured by the Germans. He was kept hostage at a detention facility that was later attacked by the British forces and the American fighter pilot escaped. At some later point, the pilot came in confrontation with the French soldiers who mistaken him to be German. This nearly cost his life. Although the soldier was without many personal belongings, he did have a challenge coin that was received from his Lieutenant before deployment. The coin had American Unit’s insignia and other marks as well. That challenge coin saved his life.
Challenge Coins Today
The history of the tradition may be vague but custom challenge coins have become an extended tradition in the modern world. It is not only special security forces like the military that use them but firefighters, sailors, police and even big corporations have custom challenge coins representing their unity.
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