Everything You Need to Know About Challenge Coins
Challenge coins are a type of physical insignia awarded to an individual to mark their membership in a particular group. The type of groups that use challenge coins most commonly are associated with the military, firefighter battalions, and police squadrons.
Challenge coins come in a variety of sizes and designs, and are given out for many reasons. While these reasons may vary, the coins are typically are given in order to commemorate or acknowledge a feat or provide a reward, or to promote camaraderie among members.
How Did the Challenge Coin Tradition Start?
The origins of the challenge coin are shrouded in an array of myths and apocryphal stories, but are not confirmed. The earliest origin story dates back to the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers were awarded custom coins in order to applaud their efforts and accomplishments in war.
During the Renaissance, stories indicate challenge coins were used to commemorate events of important individuals (i.e. royalty, higher-ups). The coins were called “Portrait Medals”, and were commonly exchanged between individuals to commemorate events such as birth, marriages, and death.
The most common modern challenge coin origin story has its roots in World War I. The story involves a military officer who was captured by the enemy and stripped of all his belongings except for his challenge coin. After escaping, he made his way back to Allied lines by disguising himself in civilian attire. When the officer arrived in Allied territory, French soldiers questioned his allegiance. The officer proved his identity by showing his coin.
Other rumors say challenge coins didn’t originate until World War II, when they were used to uncover spies and identify allies. Another legend states challenge coins originated during the Vietnam War. Commander Verne Green of the 10th Special Forces Group-A designed custom coins for his unit that could easily identify his group.
While the stories provide great entertainment for all, they remain unconfirmed. Most of the stories share the common theme of challenge coins originating in the military, but today, challenge coins are used outside military organizations as well.
What Are Challenge Coins Used For?
While challenge coins are meant to be sentimental, there are a variety of uses for them. Although there are strong ties to military organizations, the uses extend into civilian groups as well.
Military Challenge Coins
Challenge coins are most often associated with their place in the military. The challenge coins are used in the military to demonstrate a number of things, such as:
- Identifying the branch of the military that an individual belongs to.
- Membership to a unit or squadron inside of a specific branch.
- Participation in a specific tour, battle, campaign, or event.
Challenge coins are often used to signify membership ina group. Some organizations that may use challenge coins include:
- Law Enforcement
- Fraternities and Sororities
- Private Organizations and Clubs
Members of a particular group that use challenge coins are sometimes challenged to random coin checks. Challenges vary from organization to organization, and the specifics of the coin check changes from group to group.
Challenge coins can be used to reward an individual for virtuous behavior, or a prize for some sort of feat. Some common examples of challenge coins being used as a reward are:
- Commendable Feats in a Civilian Organization
- Progress in Sobriety
- Presidential Challenge Coins.
A recent trend is seen in an array of businesses using challenge coins. Businesses are using them to stand out from other businesses in a variety of ways, including:
- Using challenge coins to replace business cards
- Using challenge coins to brand the company
- Using challenge coins to explore new methods of marketing.
Designing a coin for a specific group or organization is a simple, easy process. First, you create an idea in the form of a graphic and choose what shape coin you want. Once you know the shape of the coin, youcan choose the type of metal. After the basics are decided on you can add options such as keychains, carrying cases, and more.