Challenge Coin Rules, Learn Them or Risk Buying A Round

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Challenge Coin Rules, Learn Them or Risk Buying A Round

A few days ago, we covered the history of challenge coins and what led to them being part of tradition in the military and civilian life. However, we still hear questions about WHY they’re called challenge coins or what the actual challenge coin rules are.

What does the challenge actually stand for? What’s the story behind the term? Let’s learn more about challenge coin rules and where they came from!

As we mentioned before, challenge coins have been around in one form or another since World War I. The (unverifiable) story surrounding the first challenge coin is one of legend, involving a downed American pilot stuck behind enemy lines. The pilot escaped from his German captors and used a special medallion he made for his crew to verify his identity when he arrived back in friendly territory. From there, the story of the pilot and his special coin grew into the tradition we have today.

However, that only explains the story of the coins themselves. The “challenge” part came later, with a particular practice that was popular with Allied forces in post-WWII Germany.

The German pfennig coin, c. 1937.

The exchange rate for the West German one pfennig coin was only a fraction of a U.S. cent, meaning they were generally not even worth keeping for most American soldiers, unless they were really strapped for cash.

In any place servicemen would gather for a beer, if a soldier called out for a “pfennig check”, everyone had to empty out their pockets to show if they had any pfennigs on hand. If the soldier had a pfennig, it meant they were nearly broke. If not, it meant they had enough money to not worry about saving their pfennigs and would be able to buy the next round. Thus, a tradition was born.

Today, instead of a pfennig, military servicemembers use a challenge coin instead. The challenge coins themselves can be anything from a special coin received from a ranking officer denoting a special achievement to a coin that members of a unit or battalion designed with their own custom logo, mascot, or other special artwork.

The challenge coin rules are still the same, however: present your coin when challenged, or you’re buying the next round!

Bottle Opener
A custom military bottle-opener coin.

Here are the “official” challenge coin rules of engagement:

1. The rules of the game must be fully explained before any challenging. It’s rude to call out a challenge if you haven’t explained the challenge ahead of time.

2. The coins must be carried at all times – no exceptions.

3. Participants can make no more than 4 steps to retrieve their coin. Anything further than that isn’t counted.

4. The challenger must state whether the challenge is for a single drink or a round for the crew.

5. If the person who was challenged fails, they must honor the challenge and buy the drink(s). Each person may only be challenged once.

6. If everyone who was challenged can produce a coin, the challenger must, in turn, buy the next round. (Do your research before challenging!)

7. Losing or giving away your coin isn’t an excuse – it’s up to you to replace it. Otherwise, you’re buying a lot of drinks in the meantime!

Long story short: keep your coin on you at all times or risk buying the next round – even when you’re not at the bar. The rules always apply!

Now you know the meaning behind the challenge with challenge coins! If you’re lucky enough to have a coin, make sure you always have it with you. You never know when the next challenge will come! is proud to supply all branches of the military, businesses, and non-profit organizations with the finest custom challenge coins you’ll find anywhere. Learn more about our custom coins and other products by calling toll-free at 855-272-8451 or by filling out our free quote form.

Thanks for reading!