Coveted Coins! The Meaning of the Presidential Challenge Coin 
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Coveted Coins! The Meaning of the Presidential Challenge Coin 

Challenge coins have quite a history, and each one comes with its own meaning. With a past rooted in military history, some coins are more popular and distinguished than others...

Jesse Daugherty

Challenge coins have quite a history, and each one comes with its own meaning. With a past rooted in military history, some coins are more popular and distinguished than others. One such coin is the presidential challenge coin. The presidential coin is one of the most sought-after challenge coins ever crafted. Though its meaning and value haven't changed, the challenge coin itself has, sparking quite a bit of attention in recent years.

Presidential challenge coins are a more recent trend, though they have a long history. Presidential challenge coins date back to the Clinton presidency, though the origins of challenge coins can be traced back to ancient Rome. Roman soldiers were presented with coins regularly. They served to identify those with different military affiliations and branches. Modern challenge coins have a similar purpose, with specially designed coins offered to military personnel of all ranks. These coins ofter feature presidential/national logos, mottos, and emblems unique to the recipients. But let's take a deeper look into the tradition of challenge coins first.

Military Tradition

Challenge coins are a staple in military custom. What began with officers passing out custom coins to troops as signs of honor and dedication has transformed into something impactful that extends beyond the military. Challenge coins often feature division insignia or emblems of units and teams, and monetary value is of secondary importance. Challenge coins are proof of membership and are also used to boost morale. It's an honor to receive a challenge coin, and the act itself calls for respect. While they are used for many reasons, challenge coins get their name from actual challenges. They involve service members challenging each other to produce their respective coins at any given moment. Those who cannot produce their coin has to buy the subsequent round of drinks. While not a terrible price to pay, it's a challenge of pride and camaraderie amongst soldiers.

The Presidential Challenge Coin

As we mentioned earlier, presidential challenge coins were a trend set into place by President Clinton. As an avid collector, he would pass out personal custom coins as personal mementos. He even showed off multiple racks of unique coins he had received throughout the years, further proving himself to be a passionate collector. Challenge coins are even seen in the personal portrait that hangs in the White House. From the Clinton administration on, presidential challenge coins have become popular and highly sought-after. Each president has had their own coin,  typically presented to soldiers, foreign dignitaries, and others.

The Presentation

Each challenge coin varies in design, but the essence is the same regardless. Presidential challenge coins embody patriotism and military prowess. They are valuable, rare, unique, and eye-catching. When giving challenge coins, the President commonly does so with a secret handshake. It's a sign of friendship, trust, and recognition while also a great way to keep the coin unseen and hidden. Presidents often present coins to show a welcoming spirit while symbolizing honorary membership. Coins are meaningful gifts for memorable moments, and they will be cherished for years to come.

Doing Things Differently

Presidential challenge coins highlight shared values and ideals, bestowed in a way that further extends those values. Each presidential coin is different and but how they are used has remained the same. Challenge coins are often handed to those guarding Marine One and Air Force One. President Barack Obama provided coins to service members and even left them on the graves of deceased soldiers. President George W. Bush was known to give challenge coins to family members of soldiers killed in action.  It’s no wonder presidential challenge coins are highly regarded and valued.

Presidents receive challenge coins as well. In years past, presidents have received challenge coins from U.S. service members. These coins are typically presented out of respect and appreciation, featuring battalion logos and more. President Trump received a coin from a vice-admiral in 2016, as President-elect, while President Bush got one from a Marine combat patrol in Iraq.

The Details

The design of presidential challenge coins remained a mystery for years. Often given in a confidential manner, the coins are cherished and displayed privately. However, Presidents Bush and Obama provided a better look at their coins, being avid fans. President Bush's coin was notable for featuring a presidential seal, and the White House etched in. The front of the coin included an inscription stating the president’s name and title. "E Pluribus Unum" was prominently featured, while the presidential seal was essential for the design. President Obama's coin included a 3D representation of the White House and the president’s signature. There was also gold text against a blue background that read: "Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States."

President Trump strayed away from the traditional design, removing a few aspects of traditional presidential challenge coin. His design removed the presidential seal, Latin motto, and thirteen arrows that represented the original colonies. These details were replaced with his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again," while an eagle perched behind the shield carried Trump's signature. The coin is much thicker than previous iterations, and the President's name appears three times. While different, it does showcase the variety of details that can be included on any challenge coin.

Tradition and Honor

More than a tradition, the presidential challenge coin in honor of a challenge and military servitude. They will strengthen the bond between military personnel, reminding us of the ties between the Commander in Chief and the armed forces. Presidents still use challenge coins as a way to honor hard work, loyalty, and dedication. For those who receive them, they understand their importance and significance.

At ChallengeCoins4Less.come, we have been lucky enough to create challenge coins for all branches of the U.S. armed forces. We understand the impact that challenge coins can have, and we take pride in what we do. If you are interested in finding out more about custom challenge coins or would like to get started on your own design, we can help. Simply call us toll-free at 1 (855) 272-8451 or email us. You can also get a free quote here!