The History of the Custom Challenge Coin & How Businesses Use Them

Jesse Daugherty

Jesse Daugherty

The History of the Custom Challenge Coin & How Businesses Use Them

The history of the custom challenge coins dates back more than a hundred years, and they have been a staple of military life ever since. These coins signify brotherhood and unity, pride in the unit's work, passion for the country, and camaraderie of their military family. Those same traits are recognized and adopted by organizations outside the military as well. First responders, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses present challenge coins. Even the President has one. Today we learn more about these unique coins and how you can use them in your business.

What is a Challenge Coin?

A challenge coin is a coin that carries the unique insignia or motto of a particular group or unit. These coins are generally seen in the military, carried with a sense of pride. The size of the original challenge coins were about an inch in diameter. Now they range from 1.75 inches up to 3 inches in diameter. Most of them are round, like a standard coin, but they can be made in virtually any shape.

These coins are often issued to show appreciation for serving in a military operation, and soldiers use them to signify their belonging to a particular unit. They can be traded and exchanged like trading cards or business cards among military members.

The History of the Challenge Coin

No one really knows how the challenge coin became a tradition of the U.S. Military. The most common story is a wealthy American lieutenant created insignia and had medallions made for his unit during World War I.

He was an Army Air Corps pilot shot down and captured by German soldiers, who took all of his ID except the coin he kept in a leather pouch he wore around his neck. Upon escaping, he managed to contact French soldiers, who thought he was a German spy. The soldier used his coin to identify himself, eventually recognized by a French soldier, who helped save his life.

Other stories have filtered down through the years of the coins coming from World War II and Vietnam. The challenge coin tradition further took shape in the 1960s when the 10th Special Forces Group became the first and only military unit to commission its own coin.

It remained the only unit in the Army with a unique challenge coin until the 1980s. That's when the tradition became standard among military units.

The use of these coins goes back to ancient Rome. Roman soldiers received coins for their pay after a day on the battlefield. Soldiers were recognized for an extraordinary job with another coin. These specially produced coins represented different Roman military units.

Other countries, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom to name a few, have embraced what challenge coins represent.

Where Does "Challenge" Come From?

How did a challenge coin get to be called a challenge coin? The challenge aspect comes in the form of a coin check to make sure all unit members are carrying their coins.  This usually happened at the bar when one member would slap their coin on the bar. That serves as a call for everyone else to show their coins. If everyone has their coin, the challenger has to buy a round of drinks. Whoever doesn't have their coin has to buy a round of drinks for the challenger and everyone else.

Why You Should Use Them For Your Business

Challenge coins have expanded outside of the military and integrated into the business world seamlessly. If your employees are short on passion, pride, and camaraderie, consider getting challenge coins for your team.

Team Building

How fun would it be if your sales team were sitting around at a meeting table and someone tried to challenge the rest of the team? Maybe it's a lunch challenge? Make it interesting! Those are the times when everyone is laughing and having fun, creating a team environment.

Brand Building

Challenge coins make marketing and promotion innovative, making your company stand out. A custom coin can make a positive first impression for your brand. With the challenge coin, you can use your logo, company name, or the organization's vision. 

Recognize Outstanding Work

Employees who are appreciated are much more engaged. They're also motivated by recognition, appreciation, and a fun workplace. With a challenge coin created for outstanding employees, your employees benefit from all three!

Walk Together Forever

Challenge coins also present the opportunity to bond. Have you ever been part of a big project or part of a team where everyone worked hard, worked overtime, and the team succeeded? Celebrate these special moments! You can make those memories last by giving a challenge coin to each member. It’s a way to recognize the hard work, the fun, and the memories that last long after the job has passed. 

Ways To Add a Custom Challenge Coin to Your Business

Does your team have any special projects or objectives to meet? Maybe you have different sales teams competing for the highest sales volume. Possibly a conference or trade show that you want to stand out at. These are just a few ways to add these unique coins to your business: 

  • Reward Outstanding Teams
  • Appreciate Individual Employees
  • Marketing Promotions
  • Customer Appreciation
  • Business Cards

Get creative and unique. The possibilities are endless!

Get a Unique Custom Challenge Coin

A challenge coin is a great way to reward the team. They are also an excellent way to bring groups together while bringing fun to work. Looking to create a custom challenge coin for your business? Have a look at design options and get a free quote right now!