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
- 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!