What is a Challenge Coin and What Do They Represent?

What is a Challenge Coin and What Do They Represent?

You’re at a military ceremony. A soldier is being honored for service above and beyond the call of duty. As he approaches the unit commander to receive his award, he salutes and then reaches out to shake hands.

In the unit commander’s palm, before he clasps hands, you notice a glint of metal. Wondering what that is? Well, you’ve seen your first challenge coin.

What is a challenge coin? I’m glad you asked.

What is a Challenge Coin?

The simple answer is this: A challenge coin is a specially designed coin. It’s given to someone to confirm membership in an organization or group. A challenge coin can also honor a person for a special achievement.

Description

Challenge coins are small, metal coins that fit in the palm of your hand. They are made of metal. Each challenge coin has a unique design that belongs to the organization it represents.

The emblem or insignia of the organization is etched directly into the coin. The organization’s motto can be engraved around the edge of the coin. They can have colored enamel painted into the etching, depending on the unique design.

Though they are usually round, some challenge coins come in other shapes. Special designs even include cutouts or unique features, like a bottle opener tool.

Challenge coins are made out of a variety of metals. Some are made of zinc, bronze, and brass. Other more expensive versions even include 24-carat gold.

What Does a Challenge Coin Represent?

Challenge coins represent organizations, units, and teams. They can also represent an achievement, an anniversary or a special event. They build close-knit, lasting bonds between people who receive them and represent unity.

They have a long-standing tradition in military history. But the military isn’t the only service that uses them. First responder services also have a history of using challenge coins, too.

Civilian groups are starting to use challenge coins to represent accomplishments in their businesses. This is a new way to represent challenge coins. They are using them to build morale in teams, link people with similar interests and even to promote their brand.

Military Challenge Coins

There are many traditional challenge coins that represent each of the military branches, individual units, special groups and even specific missions. Military leaders can have their own coins, too. Top generals and the President of the United States have their own special challenge coins.

Service members are known to develop large collections of challenge coins during their time in the military. They feel pride and a sense of belonging when they display their various coins.

First Responders Challenge Coins

Like the military, first responders use challenge coins to honor service. Law enforcement agencies and firefighters use challenge coins to honor special accomplishments in the line of duty.

Government agencies and politicians are using challenge coins to recognize first responders in their communities. This creates a sense of honor and unity during a time of tragedy and loss.

What is the Purpose of a Challenge Coin?

The purpose of a challenge coin depends on why it was made in the first place. It can be used for membership, recognition, to create a bond between people in a group or to commemorate an anniversary or special event.

Membership

In the military, challenge coins are proof that you are a member of a unit or served on a specific tour of duty. They mean you are a member of an elite group of people.

In early military history, they were used for security. A service member may have been required to show the coin to prove their loyalty. That may not be necessary today, but being a member of the team is still a strong military tradition.

Awards and Recognition

Challenge coins are used to award team members who perform their duties extremely well. Giving a coin as a reward for excellent performance builds pride and morale. Receiving one is a great honor and team members work hard to get them.

Creates Bonds and Connections

The challenge coin tradition keeps members of the military connected to one another, even after they leave the service. Veterans frequently display coins from units they have served in, missions they have been on and leaders they have met. First responders receive coins for heroic efforts during times of tragedy.

Challenge coins pay tribute to events that members of an organization endured together and create a bond that will last a lifetime.

Branding

More recently, challenge coins have been used to identify a corporate brand or logo. Corporations are beginning to hand these out at conferences, sales events, and trade shows. A challenge coin is certainly more memorable than a business card.

Even schools and sports teams are jumping on the bandwagon. Mascots and logos are being put on coins to hand out at local events in communities.

Where to Get a Challenge Coin

What is a challenge coin? It’s a great way to recognize an individual, a team or bring meaning to an event or accomplishment. They create lasting bonds between team members and encourage hard work.

Challenge coins make great gifts that are memorable and unique. Whether you want to honor a service member, a first responder or a valuable team member, challenge coins make the moment special and memorable.

If you are considering a challenge coin for your organization or event, you can submit a request online. If you need help with your request, you can contact us directly.

The History and Rules of the Challenge Coin

The challenge coin is something few people know about, but those who do, these coins are very symbolic and meaningful. Learn more about the history of challenge coins and the rules of giving/receiving them in our article.

Never heard of a challenge coin? Don’t worry — you’re not the only one. The reality, though, is that the challenge coin has a long and intriguing history.

Although the challenge coin is something that few people know about, these coins are very symbolic and meaningful among those who have received them.

Here’s a glimpse at the history of the challenge coin and at the rules you’ll need to follow when giving and receiving them.

Let’s get started!

The Purpose and Appearance of a Challenge Coin

Many traditions have helped to build camaraderie among military personnel over the years. However, carrying challenge coins is one of the most well-respected ones. And today, they aren’t restricted to the military (even though they largely remain a mystery among those who are not in the armed forces).

Challenge coins are essentially small tokens or medallions that signify that people are members of certain organizations.

The diameters of challenge coins are usually between 1.5 and 2 inches, and these coins are typically around 1/10 inch thick. However, their sizes and styles vary greatly. Some may even take the shapes of dog tags, arrowheads, pentagons, and shields.

Challenge coins are usually made of nickel, copper or pewter and feature various finishes. Some feature simple designs, whereas others have more elaborate designs and highlights.

The Coin’s Origination

It’s not completely clear exactly where and why the challenge coin tradition began. However, we do know that military service and coins go back much farther than the modern age — possibly as far back as Ancient Rome.

In Rome, if soldiers excelled in battle one day, they would receive their typical day’s wages along with a separate bonus coin each. According to some accounts, these bonus coins were specially minted, featuring the marks of the legions from which they came. As a result, some soldiers apparently kept their coins as mementos, instead of spending them on wine and women.

These types of coins are still handed out today to reward people for jobs well done, particularly in the military. However, some administrators treat them much like autographs and business cards that they can store in their own collections.

Still, some soldiers use challenge coins today as identification badges proving that they served in certain units. Meanwhile, other challenge coins are distributed to the civilian population for publicity purposes or are sold as fundraising tools.

Possibly the First Challenge Coin

Another well-known story about the emergence of the challenge coin dates back to the First World War. At that time, a rich officer gave his men bronze medallions featuring the insignia of their flying squadron. Not long after that, a young flying ace was shot down and captured.

Germans are said to have removed everything from the ace’s person except for a pouch he was wearing — one that held his medallion. After he escaped to France, he was sentenced to die, as the French labeled him a spy. However, the ace presented his medallion as proof of his identity.

Because one of the French soldiers recognized the insignia, France delayed the ace’s execution. After his identity was confirmed, the ace was returned to his flying unit.

Later, holes were drilled in these types of medallions so that military men could place them around the neck rather than inside leather pouches.

The Challenge

So, where exactly does the “challenge” idea come from?

According to some stories, “the challenge” started after the Second World War in Germany. Americans stationed in Germany began to conduct “pfennig checks,” or checks for this low-denomination German coin. If you couldn’t produce a pfennig when someone else called a check, you had to buy the beers.

The pfennig check later evolved to a unit medallion check, with unit members challenging one another by slamming their medallions down on a bar. Any member who lacked his medallion had to purchase drinks for everyone else who had their coins. Meanwhile, if everyone could present a medallion, the challenger was the one who had to buy the drinks.

The same essentially applies today.

However, instead of firmly placing your challenge coin on the bar to initiate a coin check, you can raise your coin in the air and shout that you’re initiating a check. You could also accidentally initiate a check if you inadvertently drop your challenge coin.

In addition, to succeed in a challenge, you must have your challenge coin within arm’s length from you. If you don’t, well — tough luck.

Now, naturally, you may refuse to buy drinks for everyone if you end up losing the challenge. Note, however, that this is a detestable crime — one that may require you to return your coin to the agency that issued it to you.

And another thing: Challenge coin checks are allowed anytime and anyplace. So, be prepared.

Coins Today

If you receive a challenge coin today, you’ll likely get it via a secret handshake. This isn’t always the case, but it is a tradition upheld by many.

You can receive a challenge coin by being a part of a police department or fire department or by being involved with the Boy Scouts or the Lions Club, for example. The challenge coin has become a highly collectible and long-lasting way for people to show their allegiance anyplace and anytime.

How We Can Help

We offer high-quality, prestigious and custom-made coins for your organization. We are confident you will not find better craftsmanship anywhere else.

Our designers can use your emblems and colors to highlight the achievements and occasion you are interested in recognizing. Then, you’ll be able to review a proof showing you how your coin will look. If you see anything you don’t like, you can easily make the necessary changes to get your coin perfect.

You can expect your newly minted coins to show every detail of your design. And all of our products are individually packaged and shipped at no cost.

Get in touch with us today to find out more about the challenge coin and how we can deliver the perfect custom coins to you this year. Just fill out the price quote below to begin the process for your next custom challenge coin!

 

 

When Is It Appropriate To Give A Custom Challenge Coin?

Want to give away your own coins or award custom challenge coins? Learn about when it’s appropriate to bestow such an honor.

Custom challenge coins have a long history in the United States.

Once relegated to the military as a reward for a service member’s hard work, these coins are becoming popular items to award to employees for good work.

Challenge coins come in many forms and have impacted many different aspects of the service industry. Fire departments, the police, fraternal organizations like the Masons and even costuming organizations like the 501st Legion use coins to boost morale and congratulate members.

These coins can be a comfort for the recipients. And their families.

One of the hardest parts about custom challenge coins though is finding the right way and time to award these coins to your employees or members.

Custom Challenge Coins Reward Work Well Done

Being recognized for your hard work is a great feeling and 70% of surveyed employees believe their work being meaningfully recognized “had no dollar value.”

Employees are motivated and engaged when they are praised for work well done.

One way to recognize your employees for the hard work they do for you is by presenting custom challenge coins. Coins created for well-performing employees gives your team a goal to work towards. And something to memorialize the completion of a complicated project.

Keeping your employees engaged and boosting their morale is a great reason to have a challenge coin in your back pocket.

Challenge Coins Boost Morale

The origins of custom challenge coins are rooted solidly in our military’s history.

Service men and women have been awarded custom coins for decades now. And these coins are often considered parts of the identities of their owners.

Coins were often handed out as praise for exemplary service. But they’re also a solid, physical source of morale boosting. These coins help teams bond. You don’t have to be on the workforce to suffer from low morale when a project isn’t going to plan.

Many businesses are adopting the military’s method of praise and reward. Coins don’t have to be presented during a large ceremony. Improving your business’s overall morale can be as simple as handing the coin off with a handshake.

Commemorate a Special Moment in Time

Challenge coins are used to commemorate a special moment or achievement. They are a physical reminder of a milestone a person has been striving towards for a while.

There are many organizations that use custom coins. Or chips.

Alcoholics Anonymous Chips

Many temperance organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous have used custom coins to commemorate certain events. Or achievements. Sobriety coins are a great example of customized coins even though the AA logo is not allowed to be used on the medallion.

These coins or chips may not be official AA items but they are still presented at meetings. They are a very important part of the sobriety organization. And a physical reminder of the recipient’s important sobriety milestones.

The “chip system” has been around since 1942 and some believe it was started in Indianapolis. There are many kinds of coins. There can be 24 hour medals. And months ranging from 1-11 or 1-65.

These chips or coins are a “celebration of time” that recipients have taken part in the AA culture. Even though the coins are not officially part of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Police and Fire Coins

Challenge coins have long been popular with military servicemen. This tradition has continued on with many of them leaving the military and joining services like the police force.

Law enforcement challenge coins are morale boosters for police officers and their units. These coins are not presented in the ceremony. Often they are handed off by a unit commander with a simple handshake.

These coins are used to commemorate events and projects. And often times bind units together.

Fire departments also have commemorative challenge coins. These coins help recognize selfless service fire-fighters exhibit. Their dedication to service should be rewarded.

Custom challenge coins are a great way to commemorate the pride our community has in our law enforcement and civil servants.

Other Organizations

Challenge coins are popular among the military but they have seen an increasing popularity among other civilian organizations.

The 501st Legion Coin

An example of this is the 501st Legion. The 501st is a charity organization that has been around since 1997. This group recreates screen accurate costumes that members then wear to raise money for charity organizations like Make-A-Wish.

The original founding members are all veterans. They have served in the Marines and the National Guard and when they were creating the Legion they wanted to find a way to commemorate their organization. And their service.

So the Legion Challenge Coins were born.

These coins are presented to new members in brief welcoming ceremonies. They are created when a new character is introduced to the franchise. They can commemorate events. And fundraising milestones.

Many members have hundreds of these coins. And they carry multiple coins with them to each event they go to.

They are traded fiercely and are one of the defining features of the charity organization.

The Boy Scouts Coins

The Boy Scouts is another example of a civilian organization that uses challenge coins to reward and commemorate.

These coins are awarded when scouts move up through the ranks. When a scout becomes an Eagle, parents will sometimes present them with custom coins during the ceremony as well.

These coins are usually quite collectible.

And are obviously cherished by their owners.

Public vs. Private Presentation

Most organizations opt for simple handoffs when it comes to presenting their challenge coins.

Many people do not like having attention called to them. Some servicemen say their coins were simply given to them after a handshake from their commanders. While most people like being praised for their work, the fanfare is not necessary for these particular prizes.

Bring Your Team Together with Unique Challenge Coins

Custom challenge coins are unique and can be used for a multitude of things.

Whether you wish to improve your employees’ morale or whether you simply wish to reward your team’s excellent work together, these coins make for a great prize for your company to present.

With our help, we can get you set up with a custom design that will last for a long time to come.