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.

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The 411 on Police Challenge Coins

A Quick Guide on Police Challenge Coins

Police challenge coins have a long history behind them. Here, we’ll talk a bit about what they are, how popular they are, and why you may want to give one.

Police challenge coins have a long, storied history. Challenge coins were first used by the Romans to reward soldiers and the practice what then adopted by the military.

The same pride and camaraderie instilled in military units by challenge coins can be found in police units throughout the country.

Today, law enforcement challenge coins have become so popular, come cities are creating their own challenge coin program to reward the hard work of the men and women in blue.

Read on to learn more about what challenge coins are, how they became so popular and why you want them in your unit.

History of Police Challenge Coins

Challenge coins are small coins that bear some kind of insignia, logo, or motto to identify the coin’s owner with a particular group or unit.

In the military, no one truly knows how they came to be popular. Some stories have the challenge coin originating during World War I, while other stories say the coins were used during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Once they became popular in the military, it was only natural for challenge coins to be used in government and law enforcement agencies. That’s because many veterans choose a career in law enforcement after service.

The size and designs of challenge coins have evolved over time, too. At first, challenge coins were about an inch in diameter. They have grown in average size to about 1.75.” They can come in different shapes and sizes.

You can get as creative as you want when designing your challenge coin. You just need to make sure your core message is consistent across other marketing and community building efforts.

Why Challenge Coins for Police

Similar to the military, law enforcement challenge coins are used to instill unity among unit members and to recognize excellent work.

The thing about challenge coins is that they’re not distributed with a ceremony. The recognition comes in the form of a handshake.

Challenge coins can be used to tell a story that bonds the unit. Officers tend to carry the coins or have them displayed someplace important. Whenever they’re asked what the coins are, they respond with “I got this one when…”

Within units, coins are used to bond over events or projects. These coins tell unit members that they belong and they are a part of the group, that they’re members of something special.

You don’t have to be a law enforcement officer to have a challenge coin. Police challenge coins can be used in community building efforts, such as fundraising. Does your town have a law enforcement 5k or similar event?

A challenge coin would be a great way to reward participants and help identify the police force with a memorable event.

Create Unity and Pride with Police Challenge Coins

Police challenge coins are an affordable way to reward officers for excellence, raise the profile of the police department, and build camaraderie.

With so many reasons to have challenge coins in your police force, don’t hesitate to place your order today.