Challenge coins are pieces of metal that measure about one inch in diameter and bear a resemblance to other traditional coins. Challenge coins were given to honor members of the military in past years but are now used for a number of other reasons.
The History of Challenge Coins
Challenge coins do not function as a currency and are not produced by the mints responsible for currency production in the United States. The coins date back to ancient Rome where they were used to acknowledge exceptional achievements.
The exact origin of challenge coins in America is unclear but many people believe they first surfaced as a reward for soldiers in World War I. Young men from notable families volunteered their services in World War I flying squadrons before America officially joined the global conflict. Many of these young men were attending prestigious institutions like Yale and Harvard but quit in the middle of the school term to join the war effort.
A popular story is that a wealthy lieutenant had enough solid bronze coins crafted to give one out to his entire unit. One pilot in the unit placed the coin in a pouch that he wore on his neck during missions. The pilot was shot down by enemy fire and taken prisoner a short time after receiving the coin. Everything was taken from him except the pouch he wore around his neck. Once he was able to escape the Germans, he was arrested by the French who thought him to be a saboteur. The only proof he had that he was actually an American pilot was the challenge coin he carried in the pouch around his neck.
Challenge Coin Challenge
A challenge attached to the coin that involves drinking and bragging rights is popular in the military. A soldier will often take the challenge coin he carries in his pocket and place it on a table or bar. He or she will then challenge other military personnel present to do the same. Whoever is not able to drop their challenge coin on the table is responsible for buying the next round of drinks.
What types of Challenge Coins are available?
Challenge coins are engraved with images that are often representations of the insignia or logo of the military unit or organization it honors. The words inscribed on the coin will tell why the coin was issued. The coin is often used as a proof of membership by the person who possesses the challenge coin.
Metals used to make challenge coins include:
Collecting Challenge Coins
The fact that more than 10,000 types of challenge coins are in existence means you are unlikely to get bored if you become a challenge coin collector. Challenge coins presented to military personnel like lieutenant colonels and Seargent majors are relatively common and are not difficult to find.
Challenge coins that were presented to higher-ranking officers are rarer and will cost more money to purchase. The most difficult to obtain challenge coins are often those that are issued to a military officer by the United States president or other high-ranking politicians.
The challenge coin tradition was started to honor military personnel in America but coins are now distributed in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, and Britain.
Where to Purchase Challenge Coins
There are many places online available for you to purchase challenge coins. All about Challenge Coins, Coin Force, and The Military Service Company are three of these companies. Other places you can look for challenge coins include eBay, Amazon, and the assortment of challenge coin groups that communicate through Facebook. You might also want to keep an eye out a local garage sales, thrift shops, and flea markets.
You can find companies that will produce the original challenge coins you design. You can use these challenge coins to commemorate a special occasion like a graduation, birthday, or wedding. They are also great for use with charitable events or to denote membership in an organization or society to which you belong.