What Are Challenge Coins: Everything You Need To Know

6 minute read

Published on: 30 Nov 2020

Last modified on: 20 Mar 2024

Table of Contents

Everything You Need to Know About Challenge Coins

Military challenge coins have a long and storied history that not very many people know about.

You've probably seen a military challenge coin before, maybe on TV in a special ceremony or at your grandparents' house, but have you ever gotten an explanation of what they are? As a company in the business of making custom challenge coins, we often get asked, "what are challenge coins?", so we're here to give you the definitive rundown of these small, but interesting pieces of metal.

Believe it or not, there's a bit of mystique surrounding them. With conflicting stories about their origin and historical purpose, it can be hard to sift through fact and fiction, but we're going to try.

First Of All, What Are Challenge Coins?

Before we get into the background of challenge coins and what they represent, we should tell you what exactly a challenge coin is. It's a custom made coin that commemorates anything from being on a sports team to being in the military and everything in between.

Having one is a special honor that only challenge coin holders have, but anyone can have a custom challenge coin made these days. Traditionally, they're small and round with distinctive artwork on them that signifies what the coin is for. They might also have some wording on them, like a motto or slogan, or the recipient's name so that it doesn't ever get misplaced.

What are challenge coins?
What Are Challenge Coins?

With custom challenge coins, you can expand upon the traditional motif to include unique coin shapes, different kinds of metal plating, and other decorative items. We'll discuss custom challenge coins a little bit more later on, but for now, let's dig into the surprisingly interesting (and not altogether certain) the history of the challenge coin.

Where and How Did They Start?

Now, the history of the challenge coin is a little bit mysterious because there are more than a few stories that purport to be the real deal. What we can say for near-certain is that challenge coins originated as "military challenge coins", but beyond that, we may never know for sure. Fortunately, all of the stories are really interesting, so we'll talk about two of the most popular ones.

Ancient Roman Challenge Coins

There's potential that the challenge coin tradition dates all the way back to ancient Rome. Challenge coins go hand in hand with the military, so it would make sense that one of the most well-known militaries in history is where they began.

It's a simple story: if certain Roman soldiers or units excelled in battle, they'd get their normal day's wage but with an extra, specially minted, coin along with it. Apparently, these special coins would even have their legions market on it, so the soldiers would hang onto them instead of spending them with the rest of their pay.


The other popular origin story for challenge coins comes to us from much more recent times. The story goes that a particularly rich battalion leader gave each of his men bronze medallions with their flying squadron printed on them.

When one of the pilots was shot down over Germany, he was captured by the German soldiers, who took all of his belongings except the pouch containing his medallion. Eventually, the soldier escaped and fled to France, but upon arrival, he was thought to be a spy because he didn't have any of his identification.

Before he could be executed, the pilot remembered that he had his coin and showed it to the French troops. One of them recognized the insignia and the pilot was returned back to his unit.

What Do Challenge Coins Represent Today?

Regardless of where the tradition originated from, military challenge coins are now commonplace in armies all over the world. They're presented to public officials to honor their service to their country and they can be given to anyone to commemorate any sort of special achievement.

At Custom Challenge Coins, we specialize in manufacturing custom coins so that you can give your loved one the perfect way to remember something they've done. You don't have to be a president or a war hero to get a challenge coin, but you do have to have loving family members and friends that appreciate you and your achievements.

How to Make Your Own Custom Challenge Coins

To have a challenge coin made for someone you love, just visit our website at www.customchallengecoins.net, where you'll find a wide variety of coins for military members, police, firefighters, masons, and pretty much anyone else you can think of. The process is simple, you tell us about the coin you want to be made, and we'll do it for you.

Just provide us with your personal details, the size and shape of the coin, how many coins you'll need, and the style, plating, and artwork for the coin. If you don't know exactly what you want to do, our customer service team can help you figure out how to make the perfect challenge coin(s) for your loved ones.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Challenge Coin?

what are challenge coins
Benefits of Challenge Coins

Having a challenge coin is a special honor that is reserved for someone who's achieved something remarkable. They're the perfect gift to honor someone's military service, but they're just as good for a birthday, graduation, or retirement.

When you present someone with a challenge coin, you're telling them that you're proud of what they've accomplished. As a challenge coin holder, they'll always be able to look back on their achievements with pride and remember the people that they've positively affected over the years.

Order Your Challenge Coins Today

Now that we've taught you a bit about challenge coins, next time someone asks you, "what are challenge coins?", you'll be able to tell them. If you'd like to order some custom challenge coins, get a price quote on our website today. We try to make the process as easy as possible and we've even got some instructional videos to help guide you along.There's no gift quite like a custom challenge coin. Order yours ASAP!

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.

Related Articles

how to present a challenge coin

How to Present a Challenge Coin

6 minute read
What if everything you knew about challenge coins was wrong? Top Highlights Challenge coins are fascinating objects with an equally fascinating history. Unfortunately, many who own them do not know how to show a challenge coin to others. Do you know what to do in such a situation? Keep reading to learn everything you need […]
What is a CIA Challenge Coin?

What is a CIA Challenge Coin? 

6 minute read
What is a CIA challenge coin? Learn more about the significance of CIA challenge coins and how they honor their department uniquely in this article.
5 tips for designing a great challenge coin

5 Tips for Designing a Great Challenge Coin

7 minute read
Challenge coins have become an important part of the military culture. They are small tokens that can be earned by members of the armed forces to mark a specific achievement or moment in time with a unit or organization. Top Highlights Additionally, challenge coins are used as a token of recognition that signify membership, loyalty, […]

Join Us to Get Savings!

Like a good deal? Sign up to get challenge coin deals delivered to your inbox. Join us today and save! 
All Rights Reserved. All symbols, logos and slogans depicted are registered trademarks of their respective owners. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense visual information does not imply or constitute endorsement. By submitting designs to CustomChallengeCoins.net, subsidiary of MetalPromo LLC, the purchasing party warrants that he, she, or it has/had the legal right to reproduce (or have reproduced) any logos or other images associated with his/her/its order. Samples on the site are for illustrative purposes only and are not for sale.
envelopephonemagnifiercrossmenuchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram