Challenge coins are a huge tradition in the military. But many people are still unsure of the commander’s coin tradition. Here are common questions asked.
Civilians may not be familiar with challenge coins, but their tradition is well-known throughout the military, and by many United States firefighters and law enforcement departments, as well. For servicemen and women, a commander’s coin carries a significant meaning. While, for the rest of us, it’s a custom that’s often shrouded in mystery.
The most widely-accepted version of its’ beginnings dates back to World War I when an American fighter pilot was captured and traded his own cherished medallion for personal freedom.
Whether that’s truly where the challenge coin got its’ start may still be a subject of debate, the fact remains that today, these coins are a widespread symbol of honor among those who serve today.
Even the presidents have come to know and love the passing down of challenge coins, with each recent leader having his own uniquely-designed relic to share.
Still, the tradition tends to conjure up a long list of questions, both by those who take part in the custom and by onlookers, alike.
Read on to learn the answers to many of the most common questions surrounding the long-lived mysterious commander’s coin.
1. How Did the Challenge Coin Originate?
One of the stories accepted by many is the one that’s mentioned above.
After a WWI serviceman received a coin from his well-to-do superior, he was captured and escaped with little other than the shiny medallion he wore around his neck. A short time later he was captured by the French military, who mistook him as a German soldier-turned-spy. He regained his freedom only after he presented the challenge coin to his captors, proving that he was indeed an ally and not the enemy that they first believed him to be.
In an alternate version of facts, the coin’s introduction to the military has roots dating back to Ancient Rome. Rumor has it that men were often given coins to reward them for a day of hard work on the battlefield.
2. Who Was the First President to Mint His Own Commander’s Coin?
The traditional presidential challenge coin first began with President Bill Clinton. It has been followed by each president that has taken office since, including Presidents George Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.
Vice President Dick Cheney was the first VPOTUS to claim a uniquely designed coin made just for him. And, Vice President Joe Biden coined three different varieties of the personally-stamped coins.
Historically, the presidents of the United States and their vice presidents have reserved their medallions only for members of the armed forces, or for other supporters of the nation. Honorees have also included rare foreign dignitaries and the family members of those who have served our country.
3. How Are the Coins Typically Used Today?
Today, challenge coins are often presented to members of the military and throughout other U.S.-supporting police and fire departments. They serve as a way to commemorate one’s pledge to serve their country. And, they are also given to award various missions accomplished by said servicemen and women.
It’s common for a member who has served for many years to possess a collection of many different challenge coins, each representing a specific honor or milestone throughout their career.
4. What Is a “Coin Check”?
A “coin check” is a common practice among battalions and departments. It occurs when an officer or another superior declares “Coin check!” and all of the practicing members in attendance must present their coins ‘on-the-spot’.
The last member to show their coin often has to buy the others a beer. Or, they might offer another similar form of debt repayment to their faster-moving military brothers and sisters.
These “on-the-spot” coin checks, as they are often called, are popular among Veterans, both past and present. Although it’s a custom mostly taken in fun, the groups of men and women who have served take their roles very seriously. Owning a challenge coin is an honor that they carry with pride.
5. Should Civilians Take Part in the Trading of Challenge Coins?
Although it may have happened before, it’s not “the norm” for civilians to trade these coins for fun, or even to symbolize a special event or occasion.
Military challenge coins are a tradition that the members of service prefer to keep private.
It’s possible for civilians to “gift” the coins to non-military. But, this practice should only be reserved for certain special occasions.
That said, there are other variations of commemorative medallions that are often given to civilians. And, these coins are similar to those passed along through the military.
They might be presented to honorary civilian recipients for their graduation or other special occasions. Still, while similar in appearance, these aren’t the same challenge coins like those that hold the traditional meaning for military and service members.
Where Can You Learn More About Challenge Coins?
If you’re intrigued by the history of the commander’s coin, you might have an interest in visiting our site to find out more about this beloved military tradition. And, if you’re a member of the armed services yourself, you might even want to place an order for your own set of custom challenge coins.
We would love to help you find the coin that you’re looking for.
Visit our website today to place an order for your own challenge coins and be a part of the long-standing tradition of this honorable and precious token of appreciation!