What It Means To Be Gifted A Custom Challenge Coin

What is the history of custom challenge coins and what does it mean to be gifted one? Read up and find out.

Throughout the ages, members of exclusive groups and units have found ways to honor each other and prove their allegiance and membership. Whether it is through songs, sayings, tattoos, or other markers, these groups recognize the importance of their bond and their allegiance to the same group.

Challenge coins are one of the ways these groups celebrate their membership and their bond. From US Presidents to police officers to soldiers, many groups and units use challenge coins to build morale and fellowship and honor others. And while you may have never heard of challenge coins, they have a long and celebrated history.

In this article, we’ll go over the use of custom challenge coins, including their history and what it means to be gifted one.

Custom Challenge Coins: What Are They?

A challenge coin is a coin or medallion created by a group that is given to the members of that group. Challenge coins typically bear the seal or insignia of a group along with their motto or other identifying images or words. They are typically used by different groups in the military and law enforcement to signify that they belong to a unit or group.

But how did these unique gifts get their start? Challenge coins have been used throughout history, and have even played a role in saving soldiers lives!

Challenge Coins: How They Got Their Start

The first use of challenge coins in human history was by the Ancient Romans. The Romans had one of the greatest armies in history that conquered huge swaths of territory in a short amount of time.

Commanders in the Roman army witnessed the greatness of their soldiers in battle and wanted to recognize them for their acts of bravery and courage. They had custom coins made for these brave soldiers that depicted their name, unit, and their accomplishments in battle. This helped raise troop morale and commemorated these soldier’s finest moments.

But challenge coins weren’t just used by Roman soldiers. They were also used by powerful families during the Renaissance. Upper-class families would frequently give their friends and family members “portrait coins”. These portrait coins usually had the portrait or likeness of the recipient on one side and their family seal or insignia on the other.

These coins were usually given when someone had accomplished a great feat. They were also given to commemorate special events like marriages, birthdays, and deaths.

A Downed Pilot Starts A Great Tradition

While challenge coins were used long before the 1900s, their use in the modern world stemmed from World War I.

Due to the large scale of the conflict, many young, upper-class men volunteered to join the military at the start of WWI. One of these upper-class men was a lieutenant in charge of an air squadron in the Air Force.

To raise troop morale and honor his men, he had bronze coins made with their squadron insignia on them. He gave one coin to each man as a gift. One young pilot wore his coin in a leather pouch around his neck, keeping it with him at all times.

Unfortunately, this young pilot got shot down shortly after. Although he survived the crash, he was quickly captured by German forces and taken prisoner. He was stripped of his uniform and equipment, except for his leather pouch around his neck. During an attack on the base where he was held, the pilot managed to escape the Germans.

After getting civilian clothes, the pilot managed to make his way to the frontlines. Just before crossing the front line, he was captured by French soldiers on patrol. Due to the frequent presence of spies in civilian clothes, the soldiers believed him a spy and ordered his execution.

Before they could carry out the sentence, he showed them his coin, which a French soldier recognized. They suspended his execution and were able to verify his identity as an American pilot. Once his identity was verified, they gave him a bottle of wine instead of a bullet!

The Birth of the Challenge Coin

After the safe return of the pilot, he told his story to his fellow pilots and they all began to keep their coins on them at all times. They even invented a game to ensure each pilot had their coin on them. When the pilots were at a bar, one of the members of the squadron would take out their coin and “challenge” another member to show theirs.

If that member didn’t have their coin, they would have to buy a round of drinks for every person who had their coin with them. If the challenged member had their coin with them, the challenging member would have to buy that member a drink.

Although this isn’t standard practice for groups with challenge coins, many of them still follow this tradition.

What Does It Mean to Be Given a Challenge Coin?

Different groups give challenge coins to their members for different reasons. Many groups give their members custom challenge coins as a sign of their acceptance into the group. For example, the US Air Force provides graduates of their basic training program and officer training program challenge coins to congratulate them and commemorate the event.

Some groups only give out challenge coins to those who have achieved something great. For example, some law enforcement agencies and fire departments give out challenge coins when their officers and members go beyond the call of duty.

Challenge coins may also be given to non-members under special circumstances. This usually involves the non-member doing something great for that group. Members who have challenge coins also give them to guests of honor, such as politicians or special guests.

Create a Custom Challenge Coin for Your Group

Now that you know more about the history of custom challenge coins and what it means to be given one, you can start designing a custom coin for your group.

If you have any more questions about challenge coins or how to create one for your group, please visit our blog.

11 of the Most Rare Military Challenge Coins Ever Given

Want to take a look at some of the most rare military challenge coins ever given? We’ll show you in this guide.

Military challenge coins have interesting stories behind them. Service members played challenge coin games in bars to display their ranks and command. Veterans and active service members now use rare military challenge coins to connect.

The challenge coins also play a significant role in their social lives after service duty. They’re given by high-ranking officers to the participating members of a specific mission. The medallions are also exchanged between officers to commemorate non-military events.

A Brief History of Military Challenge Coins

The first coin piece dates back to World War 1. An American prisoner of war escaped from the Germans’ custody into the hands of the French military. The French were about to execute him assuming he was German.

He showed them a pressed bronze coin. The French recognized the engravings and spared the American pilot’s life. Active and retired members of the armed forces still challenge each other with coins in drinking bars today.

American soldiers would carry live bullets to bullet-clubs in Vietnam. The practice spread to their fellow service members. They would challenge for free rounds by slamming down ammunition on the bar table.

Interesting Facts about Military Challenge Coins

• The coins are collector’s items. You can find rare gold coins as well as cheap brass and zinc coins in a military supply or flea market. Rare and expensive coins earn premiums to the collector

• Military challenge coins open up the history of military events. A soldier allied to the American military once presented a medal to identify himself. Had he not done so, he would have died in the hands of his country’s ally. Military challenge coins are practical instruments in times of war

• There are always opportunities to present your coin. These include identification, during drinking games, and to boost morale

• Coins are used as a tool for recruitment into the military

• Most presidents have a unique military challenge coin

Each military challenge coin spots special unit symbols and designs. They also bear different mottos. The differences identify the militant groups.

Challenge coins have several uses;

• They’re for remembrance. People hold coins to remind them of lost battleships or servicemen

• They deepen the feeling of comradeship and solidarity

• They inspire and boost morale

• They’re for motivation on special occasions

The following are the best-designed military challenge coins;

1. Rare Military Challenge Coins: US Army Diver Coin

army diver challenge coinThe army diver coin is cut into an elegant shape. The coin contains different diver badges that identify the holder. The US Army Diver coin calls for even more significant diving achievements.

2. Friday the 13th

friday 13th challenge coinNavy Chief Petty Officers use it to commemorate their acceptance into the chief petty officer mess hall. The men were accepted on Friday the 13th, hence the coin name.

3. Aggressive POW-MIA

The coin spots the flag of the National League of POW/MIA and barbed wire. The flag represents the sanctity of life for prisoners of war. The crossed rifles is an appeal from the prisoners to be sent back to their home countries.

4. Medal of Honor Military Challenge Coin

The coin features a basic design. The coin is easily identifiable. People can tell that the coin-bearer has met one of the honored service members.

5. The Poker Chip

The military coins are iconic, and they weigh light. There’s a space on the edge of the coin where you can engrave a phrase. The poker chip coin is common in the Marine Corps School of Infantry.

6. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy

The coin spots an impressive cut laced with a trailing gold chain. The coin is given by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West.

7. Trample the Weak

The Airborne infantry unit is more aggressive than the Marine Corps and Army. The coin symbolizes the infantry job and the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

8. South Park

The design is common. The military challenge coin is comical. It allows the holder to speak proudly of their former duties in service.

You can customize it by changing to your preferred location.

9. Submariner Memorial Coin

The coin holds a record of the hull numbers of lost ships. The Silent Service guards all the seas in the world 24/7.

10. The Classic Stamp

The metal plate spots a design common to iconic units. The president-flying HMX-1 marine helicopter squadron delivered the Classic Stamp.

11. The Mickey Mouse Challenge Coin

Mickey Mouse Challenge CoinThe Mickey Mouse Challenge Coin is a copyrighted disc that is a bit comical. The Naval Air Warfare Center issue is different from other coins which represent violence and cut in the adult world. The coin is a reminder to take a 40-minute drive to Walt Disney World.

Other Rare Military Challenge Coins

Active military service members and veterans can seek a variety of rare challenge coins. Custom challenge coins are also available for government officials and civilians. Presidential challenge coins are the most unusual challenge coins ever.

Since Bill Clinton, presidents give custom coins to military personnel, wounded soldiers and their families. The challenge coins are transferred discretely and with honor.

Challenge coins today go beyond ranks and missions in the military. Guests to the White House and foreign dignitaries receive minted coins as tokens of respect and hospitality.

The Executive Branch made rare challenge coins for Joe Biden and Dick Cheney. Typical coins are also available for the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. Modern manufacturing methods make for intricate and colorful military challenge coins.

Other coins include Tickets for sailors and the Clear Challenge Coin.

Final Word

Rare military challenge coins represent deep affiliation to service. The coin bearers use them for identity and as a sign of brotherhood. Unit members swap, gift, and gather military challenge coins between themselves.

The artists who mint the challenge coins often have a background in the military. They understand military slang and the culture of service in the Armed Forces. That’s why it’s easy for them to develop custom challenge coins on special order.

For more tips and information, please explore the other sections of our blog.