What Are Army Coins Used For?

6 minute read

Published on: 22 Mar 2022

Last modified on: 18 Mar 2024

What Are Army Coins Used For
Table of Contents

Understanding Army Coins: Usage, Etiquette, and Ranking

70% of employees feel that being recognized for their work is so precious that it can't be assigned a dollar value. A small token of appreciation means everything and, in dangerous professions like the military, it can be a life-saver.

Army coins are a way to commemorate a specific unit or event. Their custom designs make them collectibles, but they're also a way to recognize achievements and create camaraderie among service members.

The true history of these special coins has been lost to time, but their personal value is as high as ever. Read on to learn what army coins are, how to use them, and where to get them.

What Are Army Coins?

Army coins are a type of challenge coin. Challenge coins are custom-made coins that commemorate your participation in any type of group, from a sports team to a unit in the army.

They differ in what they represent but tend to be manufactured in the same way. They're typically made of pewter, copper, or nickel and are 1.5-2 inches in diameter and 1/10-inch thick. Most are round, but they can be customized to whatever shape or design you like. You can also add distinctive artwork and writing such as a motto or slogan.

Military coins, as their name suggests, commemorate specific members of or moments in the military. Their history is uncertain, but there are two major theories on how they began.

One story says that the first military member to use a challenge coin was a wealthy member of the American Air Force during WWI. He had bronze coins created for his entire unit and wore his in a pouch around his neck. When he was captured by German soldiers, he escaped and showed it to some French soldiers. They realized he was American and let him go.

Another story is that the tradition of military coins began during the Vietnam war. Units developed a tradition of making and showing their coins to fellow service members at the bar at the end of the day. Anyone who couldn't show theirs had to buy drinks for everyone.

military army coins
Military Army Coins

This coin check tradition still stands today, but military coins are more than just a piece to play in a game. They build camaraderie in military units and prevent suicide by making veterans feel valued and connected.

How Can I Use Army Coins?

Collectible coins are a popular hobby, and army coins make a perfect keepsake. All you have to do is remember to keep them clean and store them properly.

It's not always appropriate to give a challenge coin as a gift. They're special memorabilia that lose their significance if they're handed out without any thought.

There are specific instances where challenge coins make an excellent gift. They're great for recognizing exceptional work, boosting morale, and commemorating special events or achievements.

Ever since the story about their origins in the Vietnam war, the most popular use for military coins is coin checks where the last one to show their coin must pay for everyone's drinks. It's a popular game, but there are several rules to follow.

The challenger should always explain the rules and set the terms for the coin check.

If you own an army coin, you should always carry it with you and be prepared for a challenge at any time. Keep it clean and never drill a hole into it to wear it as a piece of jewelry.

Never give your coin to anyone or even let them hold it. They're exchanged via secret handshakes, and handing your coin over replicates this process and essentially signals that you're giving it away.

Army coins work as collectibles, rewards, and gifts. Whatever your reason for having or giving one may be, remember that they're powerful symbols and to always treat them with respect.

What Is Challenge Coin Ranking?

It can be difficult to decide who should pay for drinks if everyone at the table shows their coin at the exact same time. This situation calls for the use of challenge coin ranking systems.

Store-bought and promotion coins sit at the bottom of the list. They're available to almost anyone, making them less rare and less significant.

custom challenge army coin
Custom Army Coins

Unit coins are the lowest-ranked coin that's only available to military service members. Most coins fit into this category and include the unit insignia and the names of the senior enlisted.

There are also rankings within the unit coins category. Listed from lowest to highest, they include battalion, company, brigade, divisional, and branch coins.

General officer coins sit above unit coins because they're only given out for outstanding service. They differ in quality and design. Generals get higher paychecks and can usually afford a more attractive coin.

The next highest category is school coins which you receive after graduating from a military school.

Medal of Honor recipient coins rank the highest. They're rare, precious pieces that are only given out by prestigious servicemen and women to those they deem worthy.

There may also be times when everyone has the same type of coin. In this case, there are two other categories you can use to rank the coins; design and backstory.

Well-designed coins win out over those that aren't as attractive. This is why you should always get a custom-made coin to ensure you get the best possible design.

All challenge coins have a story behind them, and if yours is better than your fellow military members, you may win the coin check.

Where Can I Get Custom Army Coins?

Army coins are a fitting reward for exceptional service, a worthwhile gift, and a meaningful collectible. They're steeped in deep, debatable history that makes them significant to anyone who owns one.

These coins come in several shapes and sizes, with each one representing a specific event or group. Finding professionals to customize them is the best way to ensure they create the right impression.

Custom Challenge Coins can help you create a piece that will forever serve as a way to commemorate any group or event. Get a quote today.

Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After retiring from the military, Jack moved to Austin, Texas, to start a new chapter in his life. He has always been passionate about storytelling and decided to become a writer and podcaster. He runs a successful podcast where he discusses military history, shares personal anecdotes, and interviews other veterans. Jack also writes often about military traditions and history.

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