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!

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.