The Design, The Details, & The Purpose: What Is A Challenge Coin?

The Design, The Details, & The Purpose: What Is A Challenge Coin?

Challenge coins can reward, inspire and celebrate. Here's what they're all about.

For many, challenge coins are simply small tokens presented to individuals for their merits and achievements. However, challenge coins are much more than that, especially to their recipients. Challenge coins have a long, storied past, but still, many are unfamiliar with the history and the overall purpose of challenge coins. One question we are asked a lot is, "What is a challenge coin?" While the answer seems straightforward, there is much more to the answer.

What is a Challenge Coin?

The short answer is this: A challenge coin is a specifically designed coin often given to someone to confirm membership in a group. A challenge coin can also be presented to honor an individual for special achievements and accomplishments. Challenge coins are commonly small metal coins that can fit in the palm of your hand.

Each coin has a unique design that pertains to the organization it represents. Typically, challenge coins are adorned with emblems and logos, or a particular organization etched directly into the coin. Other details commonly include mottos, important dates, and other information prevalent to the recipient.

Though they are typically round in shape, challenge coins can be found in nearly any shape imaginable. They may also include special features such as cutouts or a bottle opener tool. These coins are made from various metals, including zinc, bronze, and brass, though more expensive 24-carat gold coins can be found too.

What Do Challenge Coins Represent?;

Challenge coins can represent organizations, units, teams, individuals, and more. They can also represent an achievement, an anniversary, or a special event. More than just a coin, they build close-knit bonds between those who receive them and represent unity. Challenge coins have a long tradition in the military, though this isn't their only application.

First responder services such as police and fire departments and other emergency service agencies also have a history of using challenge coins. These days, civilian groups have adopted the practice of using challenge coins to honor accomplishments in their businesses. This is a new way that custom coins are being used, assisting in building morale, linking people with similar interests, and even marketing and promotion.

Military challenge coins are the most common. They are created to represent each military branch, individual units, special groups, and even specific missions. Leaders also have their own coins, as top generals and the President of the United States have their own challenge coins. Service members often develop large collections of challenge coins throughout their careers, showcasing pride and a sense of belonging.

Like military challenge coins, first responders use them to honor service, dedication, and sacrifice. Law enforcement agencies and firefighters use challenge coins as a way to honor special accomplishments in the line of duty. Even other government agencies and politicians use challenge coins to honor first responders in their communities. These special coins create a sense of unity during times of tragedy and loss.

What is the Purpose of a Challenge Coin?

The purpose of a challenge coin differs because of the reason it was made in the first place. Challenge coins are often used for membership, recognition, and building bonds between people in a group. However, they are also designed to commemorate an anniversary or special event.

For military members, they are proof that you are a member of a unit or served on a specific tour of duty. They also mean you are a member of an elite group of people. In early military history, challenge coins were used as a form of security. Service members may have been required to show their coins to prove their loyalty. While that may not be the case today, being a team member is still a military tradition.

Challenge coins also make great awards. Typically, custom coins are provided to team members who perform their duties extremely well. Giving a coin as a reward for excellent performance assists in team building, also fostering pride and morale. Receiving a challenge coin is a great honor, and people work hard to get them.

The challenge coin tradition keeps military members connected with one another, even after they leave the service. Veterans commonly display coins from units they have served in or from missions they have been on. First responders are awarded coins for their heroic efforts during times of tragedy and disaster. Challenge coins also pay tribute to events that members of an organization endured together, creating bonds that will last a lifetime. 

Challenge coins are also great for branding, marketing, and promotional purposes. Custom coins can be used to identify a corporate brand or logo, and companies are beginning to hand them out at conferences, sales events, and trade shows. A challenge coin is more memorable than a business card, a pin, or a t-shirt. Even schools and sports teams have gotten in on the trend, offering coins that feature mascots, logos, and more. 

Where can I get a Challenge Coin?

Well, this is easy. There are several ways you can get a challenge coin. First and foremost, you can join the military or become a first responder and work for one. Or, you can design and order your own custom challenge coins. How? Well, it's easy. At, we have created and produced top-quality challenge coins for nearly 20 years. With our experience, we can help you create the perfect challenge coin for any reason. We understand the benefits and impact of challenge coins, and we take honor in every coin we produce.

Whether you need corporate coins for your business or brand or custom military coins to honor a special veteran in your community, we can handle it. 

If you want to learn more about our challenge coins or are interested in creating your own, we can help. Call us at (855) 272-8451 or email us. Custom challenge coins are unique tokens that can be used for so many reasons. Let us show you!

Jesse Daugherty

Jesse Daugherty


Hello, I'm Jesse Daugherty, a music enthusiast, sports aficionado, and an avid supporter of the arts. I'm a writer and content creator. For the past 5 years, I've shared my knowledge of custom challenge coins and other promotional products, exploring their designs, meaning, and purpose.