If you’re the head person for an organization, you’re probably in charge of distributing items to show appreciation for your members.
Because you want to give something thoughtful and unique, perhaps you’ve gone and done some research for inspiration. One thing you might’ve come across is the challenge coin.
What is the purpose of a challenge coin anyway? Read on to find out the answer to this question and more!
What Is a Challenge Coin?
A challenge coin is actually not a “coin” perse, but a bit bigger. It’s more of a medallion that’s custom-made for people who belong to an organization. Many challenge coins are given to people who are part of a sports team or organization.
For this reason, you can expect a custom challenge coin to be designed to show the logo of said teams or organizations. This allows people to instantly recognize if someone is an accepted member of these groups.
To find out more about the different types of challenge coins, this article has some great information about engraved challenge coins.
Purpose of a Challenge Coin
The purpose of a challenge coin is to signify the exclusivity of a particular group. These unique medallions are given as a sign of honor and respect, which means that not just anyone can receive one of these.
If you see someone with a challenge coin, this means they’re a person of honor and are an accepted and valued member of an organization.
Challenge Coin History
Challenge coins weren’t always for sports teams and business organizations. In fact, they have a military history!
Where and when the first challenge coins were created is a bit of a mystery. Let’s explore some of them below.
One theory is that they started way back when Ancient Rome was around. For those who were courageous and did well in the military, they’d get a bonus with their daily wage.
If you’d guessed that the bonus was an extra challenge coin, then you’d be correct! These could be spent as money, but many soldiers actually held onto these challenge coins instead.
This is because many of the challenge coins would be created with their legion’s mark, which gave it a special look. Eventually, it became commonplace to collect these challenge coins instead of spending them as money.
World War I
Compared to Ancient Rome, WWI happened way later in history. But this is also a possible origin story for the challenge coin.
In WWI, a rich lieutenant ordered solid bronze medallions and distributed them to his unit. One pilot had to land in combat and was caught by the Germans. They confiscated everything he had, except for the pouch the medallion sat it.
The Germans took this pilot to a French town and he escaped while there was a bombardment in the night. He reached a French outpost past no-man’s land.
Because there were so many saboteurs, the French did not believe the pilot when he claimed to be an American. But before they could execute him, he showed them his medallion, which had his squadron’s insignia on it.
This ended up saving his life, as it served as an acceptable alternative form of ID. So instead of being executed, this pilot was given a bottle of wine instead.
Because of this incident, the military realized how important it was to carry around challenge coins. It then became a tradition that if a person asked to see someone’s coin, and they didn’t have it on them, they’d have to buy a drink for the asker.
And from here, you can see where the “challenge” part of the name “challenge coin” came from!
World War II
The WWII origin story is very similar to the WWI one.
Basically, the troops used local coins during meetings; the specific one would be determined in advance, as well as special signals. These served to prove someone’s identity and keep saboteurs from infiltration.
There is also a story where an American soldier had to meet with Phillippine guerrillas. To verify his identity, he brought a Phillippine silver coin that had his unit insignia stamped on it.
Challenge Coins and Presidents
Bill Clinton started the tradition of carrying challenge coins for presidents. Every president after him has carried unique challenge coins that they show to both the military and foreign dignitaries.
Most notably, President George W. Bush and Barack Obama have given them to the troops and service members.
We mentioned earlier that members of the military will often perform coin checks. So what happens then?
When someone calls for a coin check, everyone has to pull out their own challenge coins immediately. They need to put it on a surface near them, as some coin check rules specify that if you’re more than 4 steps away from your coin, others can take it.
If anyone fails to present their coin, then they must buy drinks for everyone.
Should you ever be part of a coin check, make sure you never put your coin in someone else’s hand. This means you’re giving it to them, which means you lose your special coin. Instead, place it on a hard surface or your palm so the others can inspect it.
Enjoy These Special Coins
Now you know what a challenge coin is, the purpose of it, the history behind it, and what a coin check entails.
Don’t you agree that this is something truly special to give and receive? If so, then make sure you join in on the fun and exclusivity that challenge coins offer you.
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