The History and Meaning Of Navy Challenge Coins

Custom Navy Coins are symbols of the bonds sailors share

Challenge coins have a longstanding tradition within the military. Whether you or a loved one have served, you have probably heard of or have seen challenge coins at some point. These collectible items have deep meaning to both the presenter and the recipient. Each military branch has its own challenge coins, but today we take a closer look at Navy Challenge Coins. These valued items are cherished. 

Many people who receive challenge coins keep them and cherish them for the rest of their lives, passing them on to other family members later in life. A Navy Challenge Coin is a commemorative coin designed for a particular purpose. They are created and distributed within groups, and they are prevalent in the Navy. They are often designed to recognize an individual, an event, or a special achievement. 

Challenge Coin Shapes, Sizes and Style

Challenge coins are often a bit larger than the coins used for currency. The extra space allows for detailed designs to be incorporated, adding to their appeal and value. However, they are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and easy to carry in your pocket. Sometimes, challenge coins are metallic only; however, they can be customized with colorful enamel that elevates their look. The imagery varies from coin to coin, though Navy coins will feature symbols, the name of a unit or base, a mascot, patriotic images, or inspirational phrases. 

Commonly, challenge coins are round in shape, but they may be created in virtually any shape you can imagine. They are crafted from metal, most commonly from bronze, brass, zinc, and sometimes silver or gold. Challenge coins mean different things to different people. 

What Navy Coins Symbolize

Navy challenge coins represent the bond that men and women develop with one another during duty. Members of a unit man receive coins from a superior during their service or celebrate a special event or accomplishment. Often when these individuals meet again in later years, they will reminisce about their past with the memories provided by their challenge coin. 

Navy coins recognize an individual's membership in a group as well. These coins commemorate ships, units, tours of duty, and membership in the United States Navy. They become valued keepsakes that the recipient will never forget. The origin story for Navy challenge coins is unknown. However, most military historians agree that they have been a part of serving in the Navy for nearly a century. 

There are no records about the tradition's beginnings in the Navy or other branches of the armed forces. There is, however, a story that traces challenge coins back to World War I. Some historians suggest that challenge coins were passed around during the U.S. Civil War, which means they have been a part of the tradition much longer than many people realize. 

Regardless of when Navy coins first appeared, they are quite popular among the ranks. Navy historians agree that the popularity of Navy challenge coins started to grow during Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s. The awarding of challenge coins can build morale and camaraderie, giving soldiers something to work towards and look forward to. 

There are several different ways to get Navy challenge coins. For collectors, they will be found at shows, auctions, and even purchased online. The hobby of coin collecting has grown over the years, which means rare coins are getting harder to find. However, collecting challenge coins is a great way to meet other veterans. The best and most traditional way to get a Navy challenge coin is to earn one yourself. Many challenge coins are presented at an event, though others require hard work, sacrifice, and determination. 

If it’s custom coins you are looking for, we have you covered. We have had the honor of supplying military coins to every U.S military branch, even supplying police and fire department coins. We love turning your ideas into unique mementos. We are dedicated to producing top-quality coins while offering unbeatable pricing and focusing on giving our customers the best customer service. We have the experience and team to turn your ideas into something special. With more than 15 years in the business, we’re committed to the highest standard of excellence in everything we do. 

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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.