9 Reasons We Love Air Force Challenge Coins

Have you ever heard of an air force challenge coin?

Although challenge coins are not common knowledge among the general public, air force challenge coins are a longstanding and deeply respected tradition in the Air Force. 

Check out some reasons why we love challenge coins and everything they stand for! 

The history of challenge coins and the ways that the coins are used today have cemented the challenge coins in our hearts. Here are our top reasons that we love Air Force challenge coins. 

1.  Air Force Challenge Coins Have History 

The legend dates back to World War I. The story goes that Germans shot down an American pilot in Germany during the war. He made his way to the Allied forces but had no proof of identity. 

The French troops who intercepted him doubted his claims of being an American pilot and thought he was a spy.  He was set for execution until he pulled out a medallion with his squadron’s symbol on it. 

The medallion saved the pilot’s life. He used it to prove his identity and get safe-passage back to his squadron. 

After that, it became customary in his squadron to always carry the medallion as a form of identification. The custom slowly spread across all Airmen. 

Eventually, the idea of challenge coins reached all branches of the military and other public service positions such as fire departments.

2. It’s a Rite of Passage

Air Force trainees receive their first coin, called the Airman’s coin, when they complete basic training. There is an official ceremony during which Commanders impart trainees with a coin. 

This is the most significant coin an Airman will receive. The Wing Commander or Commander Chief Master Sergeant gives the medallion. It signifies that a trainee is now officially an Airman. 

They are no longer the lowly status of a trainee. 

3. There’s a Traditional Hand-off (Like a Secret Handshake)

Any good tradition involves a secret handshake. This one is no different. There is pomp and circumstance involved in giving a coin. 

You can’t simply give someone a coin. You can’t mail it. You can’t toss it across the bar. 

The coin must pass during a handshake. The Commander places the coin in his/her palm. The Commander then shakes the hand of the Airman. 

During the handshake, the coin transfers from the Commander’s palm to the palm of the Airman.

No other form of coin transfer is acceptable.  

4. It’s a Challenge

Every Airman knows that keeping with the legend, you must keep your coin on you at all times. You never know when a coin challenge or coin check will happen. 

A coin challenge or coin check is when a member of the Air Force demands that all other present members produce their coins. This can happen at any time, during any circumstances, so you better be prepared.

Any Airman that can’t immediately produce their coin owes the challenger a drink. If everyone present can and does produce their coin, the challenger owes a round of drinks for all he/she challenged. 

5. Your Coins tell Your History 

The Airman’s coin is your first coin earned, but it’s not the last. Airmen earn coins throughout their military careers.

Your collection of coins tells your professional history.

The President or other First Sergeants award coins for services performed, that are deemed worthy.

6. There are Rules

Along with the handshake pass off, there are other rules an Airman follows for the coins.

Some of these rules include:

  • You must explain all the rules to new Airmen when you give them a coin  
  • You must carry your coin on you at all times
  • You cannot lend/give your coin to someone during a challenge
  • If you lose or misplace your coin, it is your responsibility to replace it as soon as humanly possible
  • You must carry a challenge coin; you cannot wear it. Don’t attach it to a necklace or belt

Airmen who carry their coins within the rules are honoring a tradition and demonstrating that they understand the history that comes along with a challenge coin.  

7. There Are No Exceptions to the Rules

There are zero exceptions to the rules. The rules listed in #6 apply at all times to all Airmen.

They apply whether you are in uniform or not. They apply whether you’re clothed or not. They apply first thing in the morning and last thing at night. 

There is no excuse for not having your coin on your person. 

At the time of the challenge, an Airman is permitted one step and an arm’s reach to procure their coin. If the challenged Airman cannot produce the coin, they lose and owe the challenger a drink.

8. The Commander Designs the Coin

Commanders in the Air Force create their own coins. There is a designated budget for officers to create personal coins. These coins are designed for specific reasons and to commemorate specific events. 

For instance, the “First Salute” coin is awarded to the first enlisted member who salutes a newly-commissioned officer. 

9. The Coin Has Evolved

The Air Force challenge coin looks different from the original coins.

The first official version of the Airman’s coin showcased an eagle on one side. The inscription “Aerospace Power” was featured beneath the eagle. The opposite side featured a white star with a red dot in the center.

This is the Hap Arnold star. Around the edge of the coin, the words “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We Do” are engraved. 

For the Air Force’s 60th anniversary in 2007, the Airmen’s coin was updated to feature an anniversary design. The most recent version of the Airmen coin shows the Air Force symbol instead of the eagle. 

Get Your Personalized Challenge Coin Today!

Now that you are familiar with Air Force challenge coins, you’ll probably start to hear about other types of challenge coins. It is a tradition that has been adopted across all branches of the military and right down to civilian corporations looking to boost morale. 

Want to learn more about the challenge coin? Check out this article about the history of challenge coins. 

Contact us today with any questions or inquiries. 

What’s the Purpose of the Prestigious Military Challenge Coin?

The military challenge coin has become one of the most prestigious military and first responder markers of rank and camaraderie.

Did you know that more than 20% of veterans who served in either Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from severe PTSD and/or depression? 

What about the fact that, when many veterans return from their service, they feel as if no one appreciates the sacrifices that they’ve made for their country? 

Whether you have a veteran in the family, or just wish you could do more to show our members of the military how much you appreciate what they’ve done, there is one simple act that means a lot: giving a military challenge coin

What are challenge coins, and how will they help to show appreciation — and support — for those who have served? 

Keep on reading to find out. 

A Brief History of Military Coins

Let’s quickly discuss how the concept of a military challenge coin came about in the first place. 

There are two main conflicting narratives surrounding the birth of challenge coins — and you can believe whichever one you would like.

The Wealthy Pilot

Some people think the tradition got started when a wealthy member of the American Air Force in World War One wanted to thank the men in his unit for serving alongside him. 

He had bronze coins created for each man in his unit so that they would always remember their time together. He wore his coin in a pouch around his neck, and it protected him and made him feel close to everyone who fought alongside him. 

Unfortunately, his plane was shot down, and he was captured by German soldiers. He escaped, but the Germans stole everything but the pouch around his neck, which they hadn’t noticed. 

While on the run, he came across some French soldiers, who assumed he was German and planned to shoot him. He then showed these French soldiers his medallion, which had the American insignia around his neck. 

His challenge coin saved his life. 

The Vietnam Challenge

Other people believe the tradition of U.S. Army challenge coins began much more recently, during the Vietnam War. 

One of a unit’s favorite ways to pass the time was to head to a local bar while on leave or at the end of the day. The goal was to be able to prove that you’d been in combat. In some cases, they would hold up enemy bullets in the bar. 

If anyone couldn’t prove that they’d served, as a way to say “thank you”, they’d need to buy all those that had served a drink. 

Soon, soldiers and veterans alike started making challenge coins, and the tradition evolved into the “coin check” challenge many of us are familiar with today. 

The Modern Meanings of a Military Challenge Coin

It goes without saying that the meaning of a challenge coin usually contains a sentiment that’s directly related to the history of the person receiving it.

There are challenge coins for all different branches of the armed forces, and there are even designs created to build camaraderie between those who have served in medical units in the army. 

In the past, challenge coins were mostly seen as a way to create a greater sense of belonging and teamwork within units. 

In today’s world, though, they’ve taken on an additional meaning — one that has saved countless lives. 

Mental Health and Challenge Coins

In addition to PTSD and depression, as well as any physical injuries sustained in combat, there’s another very real threat to the safety of veterans — suicide. 

Sadly, many vets don’t always have access to the mental health care they need to process the complex and often frightening emotions that living in dangerous situations — and seeing difficult traumatic events — causes. Some cannot cope, and opt to take their own lives. 

We know that you’ll do anything to stop a veteran — whether or not they’re a member of your family or friend — from doing this. 

While it’s important to familiarize yourself with the signs that someone might be suicidal, there is something else you can also do. 

Many people give veterans challenge coins to help ease the transition back into civilian life. These gifts for veterans carry an especially beautiful meaning. They let the veteran know that, should they ever need to talk or ask for help, you’ll be there for them. 

They don’t need to do anything more than simply slide their coin across the table to you, or show it to you. When they do, you’ll be ready to listen to what they’re going through. If they need immediate help, giving someone a coin means that you are ready to be the person they rely on. 

It’s a powerful and life-saving gift.

Are You Looking to Buy Challenge Coins Online? 

We hope that this post has helped you to better understand the meaning and prestige behind the idea of the military challenge coin. 

Whether your goal is to tell a soldier that you’re always willing to listen to them, or if you want to build friendships in your unit, a challenge coin always makes a great gift. 

Remember that these coins aren’t exclusively reserved for members of the military. They also make wonderful gifts for members of the police force, firemen and women, and others who help to protect and serve our country and communities. 

Additionally, they’re wonderful ways to promote a brand or even build teamwork among your employees. 

Spend some time browsing through our gallery of custom and pre-made challenge coins, and consider ordering some for the people you care about. 

How to Practice Proper Military Challenge Coin Etiquette

As of 2016, there were about 20.4 million American veterans. The amount of veterans in the United States is sure to rise, and with that comes an increase in military challenge coins.

The challenge coin’s history originates in the armed forces–they’re meant to boost morale in the military. In fact, military challenge coins are often given out as a reward or as a representation of a certain organization. The coins often have military logos printed on them and sometimes show the number of years the recipient served.

You don’t have to have a relation to the military in order to use challenge coins, but you have to learn the rules. There’s a certain etiquette you should abide by when using the challenge coins. Whether you’re giving someone a coin or initiating a coin check, keep some of these challenge coin rules in mind.

What Exactly Is a Coin Check?

You should know what the coin challenge game is before you actually play it. Traditionally, when a service member or veteran initiates a coin check, they’re trying to connect with other veterans and military members.

A person can yell or call out that they’re starting a coin check. They also have the option to loudly slam their coin on a hard surface like a table or on the floor, so listen carefully.

Be careful not to accidentally drop your coin on the floor–you’ll automatically start a coin check. This is a punishment for not taking good care of your coin.

Everyone who owns a coin has to show it during coin checks. Make sure you always carry your coin with you, as coin checks can happen at any time.

Military Challenge Coin Etiquette

Challenge coins are honorable symbols that deserve to be taken care of. If you’re an owner of challenge coins, remember these rules for the next time you hit the bar or hang out with your buddies.

Always Explain the Rules

The game’s rules should always be explained to anyone who has been given a coin. It’s unfair to initiate a coin check when you haven’t explained the rules beforehand.

Stay Close to Your Coin

Try to keep your coin somewhere on your person. If you’re seen without your coin during a check, you’ll be responsible for buying drinks. You won’t be able to redeem yourself that night either, as you can’t be challenged more than once.

Not only is it important to carry your coin at all times, it’s also important not to put it down far from your seat. You’ll lose the game if you have to take more than four steps to get to your coin.

Challenge With Caution

If you’re thinking about starting a challenge the next time you’re at the bar with your friends, you should know that there could be some consequences. When everyone who’s challenged pulls out a coin, you’ll be paying for all of their drinks.

Don’t Hand Over Coins

Putting your coin in someone else’s hand during a challenge means that you’re giving it to them. Instead, showcase the coin on a table, hold it in the palm of your hand, or hold it up. Anyone who wants to take a closer look at the coin is obligated to bring it back to its spot.

Don’t Lose Your Coin

You’ll need to immediately replace your coin if you happen to lose it. Keep in mind that you aren’t exempt from the game even if you lost your coin. That means you’ll be paying for a ton of drinks.

Challenge Coins Aren’t Jewelry

You shouldn’t wear your coin like a bracelet or belt buckle. Definitely, don’t drill a hole in it to make a necklace. If you want to carry it around your neck, you can put it in a pouch that doubles as a necklace.

Try to keep your coin as clean as possible. Dirty coins are a sign of disrespect.

Challenges Can Happen Anywhere at Any Time

Don’t be blindsided by the next coin check. Always remember to take your coin with you before leaving the house because checks can happen at any place and time.

No Exceptions

Sorry, but there aren’t any exceptions to these rules. Whether you’re naked or clothed, you better be able to show your coin.

When to Give Someone a Challenge Coin

Maybe you want to honor someone for a good deed or for their hard work. There’s no better way than rewarding them with a challenge coin. Even if you’re not a veteran or a member of the armed forces, you can still use custom challenge coins.

Challenge coins are used among firefighters, police, businesses and even members of fraternal organizations. Some people even decide to use them as business cards–they’re much more memorable and less likely to be thrown out. Challenge coins are also frequently sold to raise money for a cause.

You can use challenge coins to reward employees after the completion of a special project or if a huge accomplishment has been made. The coin can be a representation of the achievement. When an employee or member is recognized for a job well done, they’ll be more satisfied with their job or organization.

How to Give Someone a Challenge Coin

Once you find the right moment to award someone a challenge coin, you have to make sure that you properly hand it to the recipient. Transferring the coin shouldn’t be dramatic or obvious.

Many veterans and soldiers had their coin handed to them during a handshake. A commander holds the coin in their hand until they get to shake hands with the soldier. The coin is then silently passed on to the soldier while they shake hands.

Get Custom Challenge Coins

Military challenge coins are a unique and memorable way to acknowledge someone for hard work or to advertise a business. There’s no better way to represent your business, employee, or organization than by creating a custom design on challenge coins.

We specialize in creating high-quality challenge coins that are customized to fit your needs. If you’re interested in custom challenge coins, contact us and request a quote.

8 Designs You Can Create for Your Custom Commemorative Coins

How to Design Custom Commemorative Coins

Have you thought about the perfect design for your custom commemorative coins? Before you make a decision take a look at these excellent designs!

Looking for memorable designs for your custom commemorative coins?

Whether you need a unique emblem, a catchy bar challenge coin, or a serious memorial coin to boost the morale of your unit, a well-designed custom coin can help your organization.

Read on to find out some popular and interesting custom coin ideas to inspire you for your own creations!

1) Bar Coin Challenge Coins

custom challenge coinsMilitary challenge coins are meant to be carried and displayed with pride. If you aim to award your unit with coins they can use in bar coin challenges, then the coins should really stand out.

The challenge coin check is a popular game among servicemen. It’s played as follows.

One service member challenges another, or a whole group, to present their challenge coins. If the challenged party doesn’t have their coins with them, they must buy the challenger a drink. If everyone in the challenged party has their coins, the challenger has to buy everyone a round of drinks!

Bar challenge coins are a simple, funny, and a great way to build strong bonds among team members who have achieved a noteworthy goal. To be effective, you have to make the bar challenge coins small so they can be carried with convenience, but also catchy enough for servicemen to share a drink over their design.

2) Memorial Coins

challenge coinMemorial coins serve the original purpose of challenge coins. They remind servicemen of those who served before them, and of those who fought and fell bravely in the field.

These military coins are almost always serious and sometimes even somber. Their design is austere and invokes feelings of national pride. They boast flags, national symbols, and unit insignia.

For example, the Silent Service issues submariner memorial coins that list the hull number of every submarine that was lost defending the nation. There are many modern memorial coins that commemorate the US War of Independence, as well as the first and second world wars.

Memorial coins can also be used for police and firefighter units.

3) Animal Themed Coins

animal challenge coinAnimal themed coins are very popular among military units. They depart from the usual round design and boast all sorts of interesting shapes and colors.

Some of the most popular animal themed coin designs include coins in the shape of snakes, panthers, lions, bats, sharks, and eagles. Special operation units often issue coins that depict stealthy animals, or animals known for their ferocious ability in combat. Most recently, many units have started issuing batman-themed challenge coins in the shape of a bat.

The Naval Air Warfare Center in Orlando has issued a Mickey Mouse-shaped challenge coin that depicts submarines, destroyers, and aircraft carriers, but alludes to Disneyland, which is next to the center.

4) Wearable Coins

 

Sometimes commemorative coins don’t have to resemble a coin at all! Many units and companies create custom coins that can be worn. For example, belt buckle and dog tag coins are very popular and can really grab attention.

Both belt buckle and dog tag coins can also be used easily as bar challenge coins, because they are easy to carry and equally easy to present at a moment’s notice.

Necklace coins are less popular, because they are often made to resemble jewelry, but can be a good choice depending on whom are you awarding them to.

5) Key Chain Coins

Key chain coins are simply coins with an attachable chain. This gives them the added usability doubling as key chains. This smart design is easy to implement and costs next to nothing.

The only downside to key chain commemorative coins is that they tend to weigh a person’s key chain, especially if they have more than one. Also, the extra chain becomes a nuisance for people who don’t intend to use the coin as a key chain.

6) Usable Tiny Tool Coins

bottle opener challenge coin

One of the coolest design ideas, usable coins double as actual tools! Many mechanical units issue coins that resemble rulers, wrenches, combo spanners and even screwdrivers of tiny proportions.

These tools are all usable and can actually come in handy in the everyday lives of those who carry them.

Another very popular tool design is the bottle opener coin. You know you need a bottle opener when you’re going out, and these coins make for excellent bar challenge coins.

7) Vehicle-Shaped Coins

Naval and aerial units tend to spend a lot of time inside specific vehicles. Whether it’s a helicopter, a carrier plane or a destroyer ship, you get to practically live inside these vehicles for dozens of hours each month.

A vehicle-shaped coin will remind servicemen of the ship they serve on, and carrying one around is a great way to strike a conversation with other servicemen.

8) Funny Coins

challenge coin customNot all commemorative coins have to be serious to be unique. Seasonal coins, joke coins, and even plain silly coins are a great choice to lighten up the atmosphere or add a tone of color in your unit.

Servicemen leaving a long deployment are often awarded a South Park-themed coin that reads: “SCREW YOU GUYS. I’M GOING HOME!”, and many units feature their own inside jokes on their challenge coins.

Finding the Perfect Custom Commemorative Coins

So, are you looking for top quality custom coins? Check out Custom Challenge Coins, your one-stop-shop for an exhaustive array of custom commemorative coins.

With fifteen years of experience in the field, we develop some of the best custom coin designs in the world, featuring unique artwork and top-tier craftsmanship.

If you’re out of ideas, the experts at Custom Challenge Coins will help you get the design your unit deserves, and ship the coins to you free of charge with reputable courier services.