6 Ways Custom Challenge Coins Make Unique Gifts

Hands up if you’re often stuck when thinking of a unique gift for a colleague or loved one. If your hand is up, you’re not alone.

Most people struggle when it comes to thinking of a gift that’s both meaningful and unique.

The good news is that you’ve come to the right place. We’ve taken into account the various factors that make the perfect gift.

Keep reading to learn more about how custom challenge coins make the perfect gifts.

What are Custom Challenge Coins?

These special coins have a long and fascinating history in the United States.

Many years ago they were relegated to the military as a reward for a service member’s hard work. But today, custom challenge coins have become a popular item to award employees for their stellar work.

These days, the coins come in a variety of forms and, as a result, have impacted many different parts of the service industry. These include the police, Fire departments, and fraternal organizations such as the Masons.

In addition, the 501st Legion and other costuming organizations use the coins to congratulate members and boost overall morale.

Custom challenge coins provide a range of benefits to those who receive them. They have the potential to be a comfort, not only to recipients but to their families too.

Why Gift a Custom Challenge Coin?

As we’ve mentioned, challenge coins are now used in a wide range of scenarios. Their growing popularity is due to a few reasons. Keep reading to find out what they are.

They Boost Morale

Because of their history, and their use as a way to honor someone and their contribution mean these coins naturally boost morale. Anyone gifted with one of these coins is being acknowledged for their special achievement or their hard work.

The exact meaning can be interpreted in any way that suits the specific workforce. They can be used to incentivize good work and to boost the self-esteem of employees.

The overall wellbeing of employees is now understood as a critical element of running a successful company. Any chance to boost office morale and to positively reinforce the efforts of employees should be taken by those in charge.

Keep in mind that the degree to which an employee feels their organization values them plays a central role in determining their ultimate productivity.

The feeling of appreciation shouldn’t be overlooked as a powerful way to affirm someone in a work setting. As a result of feeling valued, an improvement in the quality of work often follows.

They Tell a Story

One of the most unique benefits of custom challenge coins is that they tell a story.

There are few other gifts that even come close to the way challenge coins tell a unique historical story. The mark a moment in history by reflecting back on a time during which they were extremely revered and valued.

Even though they’re small, they hold a weight filled with the gravity of their meaning. When looking at a soldiers collection of challenge coins, you’re seeing the progression through that soldier’s career and achievements.

There’s no doubt that challenge coins are a wonderful way to document important events in someone’s personal life and career.

They Mark a Special Occasion

This point perfectly answers the question, “why gift a challenge coin?”. Almost any significant occasion can be beautifully marked by a custom challenge coin.

Parents find great joy in giving a birth coin to mark the announcement of a grandchild on the way. The coin stands as a way to congratulate the parents to be. It also provides a way to connect parents to their own children and to their grandchildren for the rest of their lives.

Another occasion in which challenge coins are used is at weddings. Brides and grooms use them to show their appreciation to those who helped with their wedding. Wedding coins are a lasting token of gratitude to those who put time and effort into making the special day a success.

A commemorative coin is a powerful and personalized way to keep any special memory alive for the people involved.

They Unify a Team

Teams of all kinds and sizes can reap serious benefits from the use of challenge coins.

While every individual is important, it’s ultimately teamwork that makes the dream work. Team unity and a sense of belonging to a team have a range of positive effects on people.

This is one of the reasons why sports coaches, team managers and even high-up heads of department invest energy and time into fostering team unity. The beauty is that the way in which you use challenge coins to grow your team’s sense of unity is up to you.

Sometimes coins are given to a team to generate a sense of identity within the team. In other cases, coins can be awarded to a team for a special mention or reward. Either way, teams can be brought closer together through the use of challenge coins.

When everyone in a team owns the same unique coin, there’s a powerful sense of belonging that’s promoted. The effects of this are far-reaching and long-lasting.

They’re Very Unique

The more unorthodox the gift, the greater the impact. No one wants to receive a gift that’s a cliche or worse, mass-produced. The last thing you want is to spend money on a gift that doesn’t truly make someone feel special.

When passing on congratulations, showing your appreciation or rewarding for great work, you need to make your gift unique. If it feels one of a kind, it’ll truly resonate with the receiver.

The great news is that custom challenge coins offer the chance to give a highly personalized gift to your recipient. The good thing about them is that they are flexible in application giving you a broad scope of creativity with which to work.

Unique gifts are also more exciting. They create a sense of exploration and curiosity. Everyone wants to get their hands on a gift that they feel no one else has access to.

When you show your appreciation through a rare custom coin, the extent of your gratitude is truly shown.

Keep in mind that custom challenge coins are ideal gifts for both professional and personal settings. Their unique, personal touch goes a long way in conveying your message in a lasting and authentic manner.

They Make for Effective Marketing

The value of effective, long tail marketing is now acknowledged across many industries and organizations. It helps with long term visibility and brand awareness, no matter what you do.

Different companies select different ways to tap into this advantage. Some use branded clothing or merchandise to spread their brand image and message.

Challenge coins are a highly portable yet visible way to get your name out there. Coins are an easy and effective way of creating a connection, especially during moments that matter to people.

A fantastic example of this is a sports team that decides to gift fans with their own branded coins. This creates wonderful solidarity among fans when they meet and discover they both have a coin.

These kinds of real, organic connections make people feel very special. Any loyal customers can be made to feel appreciated through the use of limited edition challenge coins. It goes without saying that this kind of gifting will increase brand loyalty, as the person is made to feel truly appreciated.

The Next Steps

After reading this article, it’s clear how challenge coins make great gifts.

Whether you’re looking for a pride-inducing gift to make your employees or colleagues feel valued. Or perhaps you’re interested in injecting some fun and energy into your sports team or office.

Maybe you’re trying to find a way to show the extent of your gratitude to friends and family during an inaugural birthday or new birth.

No matter what your unique needs are, custom challenge coins will exceed your expectations. So, what are the next steps?

Please contact us for more information about finding the best challenge coins for your unique needs. We’re more than happy to guide you through the options that will best suit your specific needs.

9 Reasons We Love Air Force Challenge Coins

Have you ever heard of an air force challenge coin?

Although challenge coins are not common knowledge among the general public, air force challenge coins are a longstanding and deeply respected tradition in the Air Force. 

Check out some reasons why we love challenge coins and everything they stand for! 

The history of challenge coins and the ways that the coins are used today have cemented the challenge coins in our hearts. Here are our top reasons that we love Air Force challenge coins. 

1.  Air Force Challenge Coins Have History 

The legend dates back to World War I. The story goes that Germans shot down an American pilot in Germany during the war. He made his way to the Allied forces but had no proof of identity. 

The French troops who intercepted him doubted his claims of being an American pilot and thought he was a spy.  He was set for execution until he pulled out a medallion with his squadron’s symbol on it. 

The medallion saved the pilot’s life. He used it to prove his identity and get safe-passage back to his squadron. 

After that, it became customary in his squadron to always carry the medallion as a form of identification. The custom slowly spread across all Airmen. 

Eventually, the idea of challenge coins reached all branches of the military and other public service positions such as fire departments.

2. It’s a Rite of Passage

Air Force trainees receive their first coin, called the Airman’s coin, when they complete basic training. There is an official ceremony during which Commanders impart trainees with a coin. 

This is the most significant coin an Airman will receive. The Wing Commander or Commander Chief Master Sergeant gives the medallion. It signifies that a trainee is now officially an Airman. 

They are no longer the lowly status of a trainee. 

3. There’s a Traditional Hand-off (Like a Secret Handshake)

Any good tradition involves a secret handshake. This one is no different. There is pomp and circumstance involved in giving a coin. 

You can’t simply give someone a coin. You can’t mail it. You can’t toss it across the bar. 

The coin must pass during a handshake. The Commander places the coin in his/her palm. The Commander then shakes the hand of the Airman. 

During the handshake, the coin transfers from the Commander’s palm to the palm of the Airman.

No other form of coin transfer is acceptable.  

4. It’s a Challenge

Every Airman knows that keeping with the legend, you must keep your coin on you at all times. You never know when a coin challenge or coin check will happen. 

A coin challenge or coin check is when a member of the Air Force demands that all other present members produce their coins. This can happen at any time, during any circumstances, so you better be prepared.

Any Airman that can’t immediately produce their coin owes the challenger a drink. If everyone present can and does produce their coin, the challenger owes a round of drinks for all he/she challenged. 

5. Your Coins tell Your History 

The Airman’s coin is your first coin earned, but it’s not the last. Airmen earn coins throughout their military careers.

Your collection of coins tells your professional history.

The President or other First Sergeants award coins for services performed, that are deemed worthy.

6. There are Rules

Along with the handshake pass off, there are other rules an Airman follows for the coins.

Some of these rules include:

  • You must explain all the rules to new Airmen when you give them a coin  
  • You must carry your coin on you at all times
  • You cannot lend/give your coin to someone during a challenge
  • If you lose or misplace your coin, it is your responsibility to replace it as soon as humanly possible
  • You must carry a challenge coin; you cannot wear it. Don’t attach it to a necklace or belt

Airmen who carry their coins within the rules are honoring a tradition and demonstrating that they understand the history that comes along with a challenge coin.  

7. There Are No Exceptions to the Rules

There are zero exceptions to the rules. The rules listed in #6 apply at all times to all Airmen.

They apply whether you are in uniform or not. They apply whether you’re clothed or not. They apply first thing in the morning and last thing at night. 

There is no excuse for not having your coin on your person. 

At the time of the challenge, an Airman is permitted one step and an arm’s reach to procure their coin. If the challenged Airman cannot produce the coin, they lose and owe the challenger a drink.

8. The Commander Designs the Coin

Commanders in the Air Force create their own coins. There is a designated budget for officers to create personal coins. These coins are designed for specific reasons and to commemorate specific events. 

For instance, the “First Salute” coin is awarded to the first enlisted member who salutes a newly-commissioned officer. 

9. The Coin Has Evolved

The Air Force challenge coin looks different from the original coins.

The first official version of the Airman’s coin showcased an eagle on one side. The inscription “Aerospace Power” was featured beneath the eagle. The opposite side featured a white star with a red dot in the center.

This is the Hap Arnold star. Around the edge of the coin, the words “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We Do” are engraved. 

For the Air Force’s 60th anniversary in 2007, the Airmen’s coin was updated to feature an anniversary design. The most recent version of the Airmen coin shows the Air Force symbol instead of the eagle. 

Get Your Personalized Challenge Coin Today!

Now that you are familiar with Air Force challenge coins, you’ll probably start to hear about other types of challenge coins. It is a tradition that has been adopted across all branches of the military and right down to civilian corporations looking to boost morale. 

Want to learn more about the challenge coin? Check out this article about the history of challenge coins. 

Contact us today with any questions or inquiries. 

Army Strong: How to Care For Your Army Challenge Coin Collection

Challenge coins come bound with honor and tradition, and you carry it with you everywhere you go. After all, it’s only to be expected when you’ve been given such a valuable token.

That being said, you’ll want to know how to take care of your collection of Army challenge coins.

Something that important should only be given the highest of care. However, it can be a bit difficult learning how to take care of it when you don’t have all of the know-how.

The good news is, it’s not as hard as you might think. In fact, we’ve listed a few ways that you could keep your military coins in mint condition so they can continue to look as good as they did when you first got them.

How to Look After Your Army Challenge Coins

Here are just a couple of things you can do to make sure your coins stay in the best shape for years to come. Read on to find out more.

Keep Them from Direct Sunlight

This may sound like an awkward request, but trust us, it’s for the good of your coins. Direct sunlight is good for most things, but that’s not the case when it comes to your coins.

Challenge coins tend to have paint on the exterior. Even though this paint is hardened on the coin, when exposed to the light for a long period of time, it could begin to crack or peel.

Your best bet is to place it someplace in a corner of a room, or anywhere away for the windows where the sunlight can affect them.

Don’t Use Bleach

It should go without saying, but many people have already made this mistake, and many people were undoubtedly thinking about doing later, so we’re just going to nip this in the bud right now.

Bleach is a powerful substance. There’s a reason why you only use it on specific items, and even then if you use too much you risk damaging those items (especially if they’re white clothes).

When it comes to challenge coins, you may want to wash them off every once in a while to keep them clean. There are a few ways that you can do this (we’ll go over them in a bit) but dousing them in bleach is never the way to go.

The harsh chemicals in bleach could end up damaging the paint on the coin, or worse, it could change the color of the metal itself if you continue to use the bleach.

Case and point: just don’t use it.

Be Careful with Wiping with a Cloth

Whenever you see a bit of a smudge on your coin, you may feel the need to wipe it off with a cloth. Even though this is a natural reaction, you’ll want to be very careful when you do this.

Dirt tends to have a bunch of small grains mixed within it, as well as the possibility of tiny rocks and other debris. These small particles can get caught up in the crevices of your coin and build up over a period of time.

If you try to clean it with a cloth first, you risk rubbing the particles all over the coin, which could lead to scratch marks. This will lower the value of your coin – and if you’re a true collector, that’s the last thing that you want to happen.

To take care of this problem, you’ll want to wash the coin off first. Place the challenge coin under warm water and rinse it off well before wiping it off with a towel.

Doing it this way will wash away all of the hard particles, minimizing the chance of scratching the coin when you wipe it off.

Try Soaking It in Distilled Water

Who knew that distilled water could be so powerful?

There are times when a simple rinse under the sink isn’t enough to get some serious gunk off of the coin. When that’s the case, don’t try to force it off by wiping it. Instead, try using some distilled water to do the job.

Distilled water will be gentle enough on your coin, but tough on any gunk that it runs across without affecting the color of your coin. Place your challenge coin into the water and let it sit for a day to take care of any stubborn grime.

If that isn’t enough, take a soft toothbrush and gently rub it across the area with the gunk on it. After that, place it back into the water for another day to make sure the grime is gone from the coin.

Use Some Olive Oil

Those who collect ancient coins often use olive oil in order to clean off pesky spots without damaging the coin itself. Although you probably wouldn’t categorize a challenge coin as ancient, you could still benefit from using this technique.

Before you do this, you should know that this process is extremely slow – much slower than the others mentioned earlier. Only use this method if nothing else mentioned already seems to work.

Take your coin and soak it in a container of olive oil for a week or more. If you see that the oil is changing color during the soaking process, then that means it’s saturated with dirt and it’s time for you to change it.

After the time is up, take the coin and wash it with dish soap (one that has very little or no acidity) and water. Afterwards, the coin should look good as new!

Get Your Challenge Coins Here

Looking to get your hands on some more army challenge coins? Why not check out what we have in our store?

At Custom challenge coins, we commit ourselves to making only the best challenge coins for any organization or situation. We work with military coins, police and fire department coins, masonic coins, corporate coins, and more.

We even offer you the option of making custom challenge coins, so we aren’t kidding when we say we have a coin for every situation.

Sounds like a plan to you? Reach out to us and see what we can do to help you. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

For Your Hero: Firefighter Gifts

You breathe a sigh of relief because he’s home safe again.

It feels like you’ve been holding your breath since he left—hours ago.

You thought it might get easier as time went on but it didn’t. Every time he gets called to a fire, you worry he might not come back.

And how could you not?

Our firemen and women put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. They run into the flames while everyone else runs the other way.

So whether it’s a firefighter friend’s birthday, anniversary with your firefighter partner, or just a regular Tuesday, show the firefighter in your life how much you appreciate them with one of these great firefighter gifts.

Gifts with a Practical Element

Duffle Bag

The fire station is often a firefighter’s home away from home. A custom firefighter duffle bag is the perfect gift to ensure that your firefighter has all the essentials when he or she is on duty.

Tool Roll Made from Retired Fire Hose

Okay, we have to admit, this is not the only gift on this list that is made from an old fire hose. I mean, in this day an age, with the importance of reusing and recycling, a gift like this is sure to be a winner.

It’s safe to say your firefighter may already be set when it comes to tools, they probably already have plenty. But do they have a cool place to store them? Probably not!

That’s where the tool roll comes in. It’s practical and eco-friendly—hard to beat that!

Travel Mug

Living life so that you’re ready to go at the drop of a hat makes for a lot of half-finished mugs of coffee.

Keep your firefighter’s coffee tank full and avoid wasting the good stuff by giving your firefighter the gift of an insulated travel mug.

You’ve got the freedom to personalize them, and there are some mugs that claim to keep your drinks hot for up to 30 hours! That’s plenty of time to enjoy your cup o’ Joe, on duty or off.

Personalized Paracord Bracelet

If their choice of profession is any indication of their personality, it’s safe to say your firefighter loves adventure.

What better way to make sure they’re always prepared—whatever adventure they may embark upon—than the gift of a Paracord bracelet?

Some bracelets are essentially mini-survival kits with a compass and a loud whistle to help them find their way should they lose their way.

Fire Hose Toiletry Bag

Remember how I talked about loving the retired fire hose gift ideas? Well, here’s another one.

Having a home away from home means always making sure you’ve got the tools to stay fresh. Your firefighter needs to be able to start their day with a fresh face and clean teeth.

And where do they keep these essential tools when they’re on-call at the station? In their new fire hose wash bag!

Firefighter Gifts That Are Plain Fun

Upcycled Bottle Opener

Sticking to our recycled theme, this antique fire hose nozzle has been turned into a bottle opener, and it is exactly what your firefighter needs in his or her life.

Fire Hose Can Coolers

Can’t stop, won’t stop this upcycle train!

Keep your firefighter’s drink nice and cool on a hot summer’s day with some can coolers made from decommissioned fire hoses.

Home Décor

There are a plethora of firefighting-themed items to decorate a firefighter’s home and garden.

From hard-hat clocks to shelves in the shape of fire escapes, you’re sure to find something to make your firefighter smile.

If your firefighter enjoys being out in the garden, there is no shortage of garden gnomes out there to keep him or her company.

Fire Hose Belt

If your firefighter needs a bit of help to keep their pants from drooping, give them a belt made from an old fire hose!

It’s got a practical element but also makes quite the fashion statement. 

Gifts That Tug at the Heartstrings

Personalized Keyring and Necklace Pair

If you’re feeling a little more sentimental, go for a gift that you and your firefighter can always keep close at hand.

The pair consists of a keyring with a sweet personal message on it and a hole in the shape of the Maltese Cross and a Maltese Cross-shaped necklace to fill the hole in the keyring.

It’s the perfect reminder of how much you appreciate each other and just how perfectly you fit together.

Personalized Challenge Coin

If you’re choosing to go down the more custom route, think about getting your firefighter a challenge coin.

Challenge coins originated in the military, but the tradition has now spread to fire departments, police departments, and veterans.

They have grown to take on an even more powerful meaning, as well. While they are still used as a challenge for friends to buy a round of drinks, they can also be used as a way for a person to show they are in need of support.

Whenever they’re feeling low or if they’re suffering from PTSD, they don’t have to let out a cry for help, they can simply pull out their challenge coin to let everyone know they need someone to talk to.

Show your brave firefighter that you’re there for them with a challenge coin.

Show Your Support

The best gift you can give your firefighter is to show them how much you appreciate them.

These firefighter gifts all show that you love and support your firefighter and that you’re there for them when they need you.

Take a look around to find the right challenge coin for your firefighter, and give them the gift of support.

What is a Challenge Coin? And How it all Began

What is a Challenge Coin

What is a Challenge Coin? And How it all Began

Did you know those non-monetary incentives are as effective as monetary incentives when it comes to employee motivation?

For a long time, challenge coins have been a popular way of motivating teams and developing a sense of camaraderie.

This tradition is deeply rooted in the military and there is a long history to it. Today, challenge coins are commonplace in workplaces, corporate events and even in sporting.

So “What is a challenge coin?” you might ask. In this article, we shall discuss what these coins are and the history behind their existence.

What Is a Challenge Coin?

These are coin-sized medallions given to soldiers in recognition of their achievements.

Each unit in the military has its own unique coins.

Each new member receives a coin. Soldiers who perform exemplarily well during battle are also appreciated using unique coins. There are also other coins presented to soldiers as they rise in rank.

In the military, the more challenge coins you have the more respect you garner. The main idea behind challenge coins was to instill a sense of unity and pride as well as acknowledge valiant effort and excellence.

The History Behind Challenge Coins

Though challenge coins can be traced back to the US military, there are contradicting theories as to when and why they were actually first used.

The Most Common Theory

This theory takes us back to the First World War.

Many people volunteered as the US was building its first Army Air Service. Among the volunteers was a wealthy lieutenant. He ordered several coin-sized bronze medallions to be made as he wanted to give the members of his unit a memento.

He put a small leather strap in his medallion to wear around his neck. During service, he was fortunate enough to survive when his plane was shot down over Germany.

He was captured by a German patrol unit who took all of his identifiable items. They did this so that he had no way to identify himself if he escaped. The only thing they left on him was his pouch with the medallion in it.

Later on, he was taken to a small town near the front lines of the war. He managed to find civilian clothes and escape.

He stumbled into a French outpost where he was presumed to be an enemy because they were wary of people not in uniform and did recognize his accent.

The French soldier wanted to execute him because they also couldn’t ID him.

The lieutenant remembered he still had his pouch around his neck and showed them the soldiers his unit’s insignia. Luckily for him one of the French soldiers recognized it and he was spared.

As an apology for almost executing him, the French soldiers gave him a bottle of wine. He was then able to get back to his unit and since then it became a tradition that for all soldiers to carry a unit-coin at all times just in case.

Second Theory

There also those who have another version of how challenge coins came to be.

In this theory, the tradition started in Vietnam. An infantry-run bar tried to keep non-infantry men away by forcing them to buy drinks for the whole bar if they had no proof they had been in combat.

Initially, infantry men used bullets to prove their combat experience. It then got a little out of hand with grenades and other unexploded materials.

Later on, the accepted item of proof became a medallion with the insignia of the unit. That’s when the coin check tradition began and which still continues today with the coins referred to as challenge coins.

What’s the Challenge Behind Challenge Coins?

Though the introduction of challenge coins is unclear as they were first used in an unofficial capacity, there is some clarity as to when they truly became challenge coins.

As soldiers collected artifacts of war during the Vietnam war, they would place them on the bar and see who had the biggest memento and best story. The perceived loser would buy a round for all the parties involved in the challenge.

To avoid losing, soldiers started coming with dangerous explosives. This attracted the attention of the administration which opted to introduce the challenge coins to avert disaster.

The tradition of the challenge still goes on. Any soldier can initiate it by holding their coin in the air, placing it on the table.

Those being challenged have to draw their coins in a similar manner. If anyone does not respond correctly, they have to buy a round for the entire group. If everyone produces their coin, it is then up to the challenger to buy drinks.

How Are Challenge Coins Used Today

They are still a very big part of military culture. Service men pride themselves in the coins they collect for valor and rank. However, challenge coins have also been adopted in other fields for various reasons. The following are some of them.

To Recognize the Efforts of First Responders

Firefighters and law enforcement agencies have adopted the use of challenge coins to honor special accomplishments in the line of duty.

Government agencies and politicians have also not been left behind. They use challenge coins to create a sense of honor and unity at a time of tragedy by recognizing the efforts of first responders. Even citizens can be awarded.

Branding

These days, institutions leverage the respect people have on challenge coins to promote their brand. Instead of just issuing business cards, companies are giving out branded challenge coins during conferences, trade shows, and sales events.

Sports teams and schools have not been left behind either. During sports and local community events, mascot and logo branded coins are handed out.

Awarding and Creating a Sense of Unity

Personnel and team members who discharge their duties exemplarily well are awarded coins. This boosts their morale to continue working hard as well as challenge the rest of the team to work as hard.

Institutions have also begun issuing different teams with unique coins to help create a sense of unity and belonging. This then improves teamwork and cohesiveness.

Leverage the Power of the Coin

What is a challenge coin really? Well, what began as a simple gesture among servicemen is now one of the best tools for instilling espirit de corps that extends well beyond the military.

Organizations can now leverage this power to create cohesive teams and grow their brand.

Metal Promotional Products has one of the most creative custom coin building teams in the country. Click this link to get a free quote on all our promotional products.

Coins for the Brave: A Background of the Prestigious Firefighter Challenge Coin

A Background of the Prestigious Firefighter Challenge Coin

Firefighter challenge coins are reserved for a special kind of brave – learn everything you need to about earning one of these prestigious coins, here.

There’s an old saying that goes “All men are created equal, then a few become firemen”. It hails firemen as a cut above the average man because of his bravery and skill in the face of a blaze.

A census from 2015 reported that there were about 1,160,450 local firefighters in the United States. Each one of these people is part of a force tasked with protecting us like the military or police forces.

One of the ways firefighters are being honored is by the use of a firefighter challenge coin. Each coin has a special design and with an event or specific honor in mind. Then firefighters who show dedication above and beyond the call of their duty receive a coin.

But what is a challenge coin? Where did they come from? What do these coins stand for? And how do people earn them?

Find the answers to all these questions and more in our ultimate guide to the challenge coins for firefighters. Keep reading to learn the history of these honorable emblems, and what they look like.

What Is a Challenge Coin and What Is Their History?

A challenge coin is a small metal disk a bit larger than the United States currency coins, engraved with beautiful designs of special significance.

There is no definitive answer for when the first use of the challenge coin concept came about. Many people suggest that the first appearance was during World War I when soldiers earned challenge coins for outstanding bravery.

Soldiers would use these coins as a way to have healthy competitions with each other. Someone might yell “coin check” or slam a challenge coin down on the table and if any of the people in that unit do not have their challenge coin, that person then buys all the others a round of drinks. Some soldiers would challenge each other using the coins as betting tokens. 

Soldiers with the most challenge coins meant they were more prestigious and noteworthy than others. Losing your challenge coin was an embarrassment and merited ridicule.

Because many people became firefighters after leaving the military, the tradition of giving and trading challenge coins came into the private sector along with them. 

Most challenge coins are larger than any coins that we use in the United States for money, but still small enough to fit in your palm. They are often made with thick bronze, silver, or other metal and engraved on both sides.

Another common look for challenge coins is to have one or both sides feature designs made in colored enamel.

Common Firefighter Challenge Coin Designs

Challenge coins given to firefighters tend to have a few different symbols, each signifying something different.

The most common designs engraved onto firefighter coins are:

  • Saint Florian – Who is the patron saint of firefighters, chimney sweeps, soap makers etc.
  • Star of Life – Representing the 6 main tasks a rescuer takes on in the line of duty
    • Detection of danger
    • Reporting
    • Rapid response
    • On the scene care
    • Care in transit to the hospital
    • Transfer to definitive care specialized for the patient
  • The Maltese Cross – The standard logo of firefighters around the world. It also acts as a badge of honor and a symbol of protection
  • Fire Chief Engraved coin – One of the highest honors to a fireman given to those who show great leadership skills
  • The Firefighter Helmet – A historic design that dates back to the early 1900s when firefighter helmets were leather and metal. Now, this classic design is an international symbol for firefighters
  • Fire Chief Nickel Coin – A coin reserved only for fire chiefs and often made with antique nickel

Other challenge coins feature the firefighters’ prayer or other prayers, either on one or both sides, to wear when in uniform as a symbol of protection from harm.

How Do You Get a Challenge Coin?

There are a few different ways to collect challenge coins for firefighters. For the most part, you will need to be a firefighter to receive a challenge coin, but some are available for buys to buy as well.

By far, the easiest way to get one of these firefighter coins is to buy it. Many firemen sell them online on sites like eBay or you could attend a firehouse expo where coins are almost always for sale.

But, if you want to get a challenge coin the traditional way, you will need to face some serious danger.

Some fire departments will give all their firemen a special challenge coin to carry with them to protect them from the flames.

Often, firefighters will receive challenge coins for doing something extraordinary or showing particular excellence.

Another common event where firefighters get challenge coins is when tragedy strikes and some members of the team lose their lives. Memorial challenge coins have special images or quotes engraved on them that represent the event and are then given to the remaining members of the team.

Other firehouse related events can also merit distribution of challenge coins. Fire department anniversaries, community parades, and the opening of new firehouses are only a few special events where you might find coins.

One thing is certain, if you earned a challenge coin the hard way, it will serve as a badge of honor for you and your family for many years to come.

Where Can Your Fire Department Get Coins Made?

The honor and significance attached to a firefighter challenge coin are very important to firefighters and their families as well as other members of the community. It is imperative that the coin’s design and handling have the highest level of care and respect.

We take great pride in our wide variety of custom challenge coins for all branches of the military and private sector forces. We boast a 100% satisfaction and lowest price guarantee for our coins because we know we are the best at what we do!

Let us help you make your next set of challenge coins something special. If you have an idea for a challenge coin that you would like to make into a reality or if you have any other questions about challenge coins, contact us today!

The Airman’s Coin: 8 Interesting Facts About the Air Force Challenge Coin

The airman’s coin has a rich history. Given to airmen at their Air Force graduation, it signifies their accomplishments. Learn more here.

Military challenge coins are an object of honor and tradition. To receive a challenge coin is a recognition for the merit of something you’ve done.

From military to civilian organizations, a typical challenge coin has an organization’s insignia. Leaders or commanders present a challenge coin to a member of the unit or organization in recognition of special achievement or honor.

The Airman’s Coin is no exception to a deep tradition of history and honor. Here’s a look at eight interesting facts about the Airmen’s coin and the tradition of military challenge coins. 

1. From Trainee to Airman

Air Force trainees receive the Airman’s coin at the time they complete basic military training. Trainees receive their coins during the coin ceremony. 

This coin is the first and most significant coin of an airman’s career. It’s typically given by the Wing Commander or Command Chief Master Sergeant. Once a trainee receives the Airman’s coin, they are no longer referred to as “trainee.” 

They are officially known as “Airmen.”  

2. The Origin of Challenge Coins

There are several versions of the origin of the challenge coin. The most widely accepted story took place during World War I.

A lieutenant had bronze unit medallions created for his squadron. He gave one medallion to each member in the squadron. 

The French captured one of the squadron pilots after his damaged plane landed behind German lines. The French believed he was a spy. The pilot faced execution.

The only thing the pilot had with him was his squadron medallion. The French saw that he was an American and rewarded him with a bottle of wine–instead of death. 

From this story (or a similar story) the idea of challenge coins grew across all branches of the military, including the Air Force and the Airman’s coin. 

3. There’s a Technique to Giving a Coin

The USAF challenge coin tradition follows the traditional challenge coin protocol.

Awarding a coin is more than handing over a coin. You don’t mail a coin or slide it across a table.

The airman coin passes from the giver to the receiver during a strong handshake. The coin sits in the palm of the commander’s hand. During the handshake, the coin transfers to the recipient’s hand. 

4. Versions of the Airman’s Coin

The Air Force challenge coin is different today than the original version. 

The first version of the Airman’s coin featured an eagle on the coin’s front. The eagle claws its way out of the coin. The words “Aerospace Power” sit underneath the eagle.

The reverse side of the coin includes a white star with a red dot in the center. This is the Hap Arnold star. On the coin, a pair of wings flanks the.  

Around the edge of the coin are the words of the USAF Core Values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We Do.

For the Air Force’s 60th anniversary in 2007, the Airmen’s coin featured a special anniversary design. 

The latest version of the coin uses the new Air Force symbol instead of the eagle.

5. What Are Challenges?

Once an airman receives a coin, they must keep with them at all times. They never know when a challenge could happen.

During a “challenge” (or “coin check”), anyone in can request all other members to produce their coins. 

Any member who can’t immediately show their coin has to buy the challenger a drink. While the losing task can be anything, it’s most often buying drinks for other members.

If everyone has their coins, the challenge has to buy a round of drinks for the unit.

6. Earning Additional Coins

Aside from the Airmen’s coin, Airmen can receive other coins throughout their military careers.

Coins include those presented to them by a first sergeant or by the president for any service deemed meritorious. A collection of coins often tells the story of an airman’s career. 

7. Personal Coin Designs

One of the perks of becoming a commander in the Air Force is creating your own coins. Officers typically have a personal budget for coins. They can create coins to represent why they choose to give coins to other airmen. 

Coins should represent excellence and significance. The design should recognize airmen who go above and beyond to serve their unit and their country. 

One coin is the “first salute” coin. It’s often presented to the first enlisted member to salute a newly-commissioned officer. 

8. The Coin Has Rules to Follow

As with many traditions, the Airman’s coin comes with the rules of challenge coins

Some of these rules include:

  • Explaining the rules when giving a coin. 
  • You must carry your coins at all times.
  • Do not ever give someone else a coin in response to a challenge. 
  • You are responsible for replacing a lost coin as soon as possible. 
  • There are no exceptions to the rules. 
  • A challenge coin is not a belt buckle or jewelry. Carry it, don’t wear it. 

Receiving an Airman’s coin or other Air Force challenge coin is a great honor. It’s also a great responsibility. 

Airmen who carry their coins within the rules show they understand the gravity of the honor. 

The Airman’s Coin is an Important Tradition

The Airman’s coin is an important USAF tradition following the tradition of military challenge coins. 

Airmen work hard to receive the Airman’s coin. The coin ceremony ushers them from trainee to airmen.

The Airman’s coin shows that the former trainee now understands the full range of air and space power capabilities. They have finished training to employ or support some aspect of these capabilities.

As airmen rise in ranks, Custom Challenge Coins takes great pride in helping commanders choose the perfect design for their coins. We understand the importance of what challenge coins represent. We enjoy creating the perfect coin to recognize your own airmen. 

Our team represents families with members from all branches of the military. Contact us to let our team help your design and produce the perfect challenge coins to represent outstanding service to our country. 

What’s the Purpose of the Prestigious Military Challenge Coin?

The military challenge coin has become one of the most prestigious military and first responder markers of rank and camaraderie.

Did you know that more than 20% of veterans who served in either Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from severe PTSD and/or depression? 

What about the fact that, when many veterans return from their service, they feel as if no one appreciates the sacrifices that they’ve made for their country? 

Whether you have a veteran in the family, or just wish you could do more to show our members of the military how much you appreciate what they’ve done, there is one simple act that means a lot: giving a military challenge coin

What are challenge coins, and how will they help to show appreciation — and support — for those who have served? 

Keep on reading to find out. 

A Brief History of Military Coins

Let’s quickly discuss how the concept of a military challenge coin came about in the first place. 

There are two main conflicting narratives surrounding the birth of challenge coins — and you can believe whichever one you would like.

The Wealthy Pilot

Some people think the tradition got started when a wealthy member of the American Air Force in World War One wanted to thank the men in his unit for serving alongside him. 

He had bronze coins created for each man in his unit so that they would always remember their time together. He wore his coin in a pouch around his neck, and it protected him and made him feel close to everyone who fought alongside him. 

Unfortunately, his plane was shot down, and he was captured by German soldiers. He escaped, but the Germans stole everything but the pouch around his neck, which they hadn’t noticed. 

While on the run, he came across some French soldiers, who assumed he was German and planned to shoot him. He then showed these French soldiers his medallion, which had the American insignia around his neck. 

His challenge coin saved his life. 

The Vietnam Challenge

Other people believe the tradition of U.S. Army challenge coins began much more recently, during the Vietnam War. 

One of a unit’s favorite ways to pass the time was to head to a local bar while on leave or at the end of the day. The goal was to be able to prove that you’d been in combat. In some cases, they would hold up enemy bullets in the bar. 

If anyone couldn’t prove that they’d served, as a way to say “thank you”, they’d need to buy all those that had served a drink. 

Soon, soldiers and veterans alike started making challenge coins, and the tradition evolved into the “coin check” challenge many of us are familiar with today. 

The Modern Meanings of a Military Challenge Coin

It goes without saying that the meaning of a challenge coin usually contains a sentiment that’s directly related to the history of the person receiving it.

There are challenge coins for all different branches of the armed forces, and there are even designs created to build camaraderie between those who have served in medical units in the army. 

In the past, challenge coins were mostly seen as a way to create a greater sense of belonging and teamwork within units. 

In today’s world, though, they’ve taken on an additional meaning — one that has saved countless lives. 

Mental Health and Challenge Coins

In addition to PTSD and depression, as well as any physical injuries sustained in combat, there’s another very real threat to the safety of veterans — suicide. 

Sadly, many vets don’t always have access to the mental health care they need to process the complex and often frightening emotions that living in dangerous situations — and seeing difficult traumatic events — causes. Some cannot cope, and opt to take their own lives. 

We know that you’ll do anything to stop a veteran — whether or not they’re a member of your family or friend — from doing this. 

While it’s important to familiarize yourself with the signs that someone might be suicidal, there is something else you can also do. 

Many people give veterans challenge coins to help ease the transition back into civilian life. These gifts for veterans carry an especially beautiful meaning. They let the veteran know that, should they ever need to talk or ask for help, you’ll be there for them. 

They don’t need to do anything more than simply slide their coin across the table to you, or show it to you. When they do, you’ll be ready to listen to what they’re going through. If they need immediate help, giving someone a coin means that you are ready to be the person they rely on. 

It’s a powerful and life-saving gift.

Are You Looking to Buy Challenge Coins Online? 

We hope that this post has helped you to better understand the meaning and prestige behind the idea of the military challenge coin. 

Whether your goal is to tell a soldier that you’re always willing to listen to them, or if you want to build friendships in your unit, a challenge coin always makes a great gift. 

Remember that these coins aren’t exclusively reserved for members of the military. They also make wonderful gifts for members of the police force, firemen and women, and others who help to protect and serve our country and communities. 

Additionally, they’re wonderful ways to promote a brand or even build teamwork among your employees. 

Spend some time browsing through our gallery of custom and pre-made challenge coins, and consider ordering some for the people you care about. 

5 Army Challenge Coin Design Tips that Make a Statement

The right army challenge coin design can make a lasting impression. Discover our top tips for creating a design you’ll be proud to show off.

Challenge coins have a rich history dating back to Ancient Rome. They are often associated with the military and commemorate big events, units, special accomplishments, and more. Even though most people associate these coins with the military, they aren’t officially recognized by them. This means that coins are instead created by units, companies, and even individuals.

Anyone can create a challenge coin to commemorate an event or honor a person. If you’re thinking about creating your own Army challenge coin, keep reading. We’re giving you five essential design tips to help you create the perfect challenge coin.

1. Tell a Story

Military Challenge Coin

The goal of a challenge coin design should always be to tell a story.

Maybe it’s the story of a unit, a specific deployment, or a location. Challenge coins can even honor a specific soldier or commemorate the date of an event. Before you start thinking about what your coin will look like, decide on the story you want to tell.

When you start utilizing other design tips on this list, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to focus on. This will also make it easier to communicate with a designer or artist about potential images and text for your coin.

Your story doesn’t need to be overly complicated. In fact, it’s usually best to keep it brief. If it is too broad, it can be tough to choose a specific detail to focus on when designing your challenge coin.

For instance, rather than trying to create a coin focused on a soldier’s entire military career, you could choose a single accomplishment. You could also focus on the individual by including a picture and the dates they joined the military and when they retired.

Either of these options will allow you to keep your image simple and the text short. We will go into more detail about why this is important later in the post.

2. Start with an Image

Custom Dragon Challenge Coin

Once you decide on the story your challenge coin will tell, the next design decision you need to make is what image you will use.

Most military challenge coins feature a picture or illustration in the center of the coin. It dominates the space, providing a focal point around which the text and other design elements are centered. Popular images include flags, aircraft carriers, unit logos, and the logos for various branches of the military.

But when it comes to custom challenge coins, the options you have for choosing an image are endless. As long as your image isn’t too large to fit on a coin or too detailed to come across clearly in the small space, you can make it the focus of your challenge coin.

Your chosen image could be a picture of military equipment, like an airplane or a ship, a building, a logo, or any other image. You could even include an illustration of a person’s face. You can also create a unique design, such as a caricature of a mascot or a sketch of an important building.

Depending on the size and type of images you choose, you may be able to shrink them down and include more than one on your coin. For instance, an image of a person or piece of equipment superimposed on an image of a flag or a map.

3. Make Your Design Pop with Color

USAF Custom Shaped Coin

While some military challenge coins are colorless and left in the color of the chosen metal coating such as bronze or silver, color can be a great way to make your design pop.

With such a small amount of space to work with, a few touches of color can help certain elements stand out from the rest. They create definition between shapes that make it easier to see the details of your image. While you can use several colors in your design, beware of going overboard. On a small coin, too many colors can make your design cluttered and tough to read.

In addition, complementary colors can help make your coin more aesthetically appealing.

4. Keep it Short

The image you choose for your challenge coin may be the focal point, but the text you choose is just as important.

Whether you choose to include a unit name, a date, or other important text, it’s best to keep your message short. Too many words mean you’ll need to use a smaller font, which can be tough to read on a small coin.

If you decide you need more words to get your message across, reduce the size of your chosen image instead of trying to squeeze everything onto your coin.

5. Don’t Neglect the Back

 

Once you’ve decided on the perfect design for the front of your challenge coin, it’s time to consider the space on the back. Leaving the back of your coin blank can leave your coin looking unfinished.

One idea for the back of your challenge coin is to include a single word or phrase. While the front of your coin might be more decorative with images and text, a less complicated back can call attention to your message.

Another option is to continue your design onto the back, making it as unique as the front of your coin.

Designing Your Own Army Challenge Coin

Now that you have a few tips for designing your own Army challenge coin, it’s time to get started.

No matter the type of coin you’re looking to design, we can help. Check out the different types of challenge coins we produce to start searching for the right options for any design elements you have in mind.

Challenge Coin Discount – Thankful for Upgrades in November

** Promotion Expired**Challenge Coin DiscountChallenge Coin Discount – Thankful for Upgrades

For the entire month of November we are offering a free upgrade when you order 100 or more custom challenge coins.  We are thankful for our customers, which is why this thankful November we want to say thank you with a free upgrade!

Choose between:

a. Free upgrade to Antique nickel, brass, gold, silver, copper, and bronze.

B. Edge upgrade to Oblique line, Bevel, Bevel Diamond, and Cross Cut.

C. Packaging: Free upgrade from PVC to velvet bags.

***for the antique finishes that they aren’t available with hard enamel coins.

Check back often for other challenge coin discounts! And remember, we offer free shipping and free artwork from our talented artists. We are here to help!

Learn more about us here. Thank you for considering custom challenge coins!

Fill out our free online quote to receive this challenge coin discount! Mention “Thankful for Upgrades!