No one is sure when and where challenge coins really originated. Some say that the first batch of custom military coins came out during World War II and used by Allied Forces personnel deployed in France. Other stories claim that they have existed as early as World War I. While we may never find out what their true origin is, what we do know is that they are used to prove membership within an organization—often the military—and to boost its members’ self-esteem.
Different military units have their own custom military coins to distinguish them from other squads:
For instance, junior officers of the New York National Guard’s 107th Infantry, led by Capt. Jim Harrington, were known to carry a local coin that they used to verify the identity of their colleagues. A member of the group simply had to issue a challenge to another member, popularly called a Coin Check, which the latter had to answer to avoid being penalized.
In 1969, Col. Verne Green of the 10th Special Forces Group-A added a special military challenge coin to his unit’s crest and motto. Even former U.S. presidents, like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have a collection of challenge coins that they have received from different U.S. servicemen.
While there are variations on the challenges issued between different organizations, the basic rules remain the same across all groups. A Coin Check starts when a challenger brings out his coin and places it loudly on the table or another a flat surface that other people can see. Sometimes, the challenger needs to rap the coin repeatedly against the table to draw everyone’s attention. Everyone included in the challenge must quickly draw out his own coin for that organization and show it to all who is present.
If anyone fails to produce his own challenge coin, he is required to buy a round of drinks for both the challenger and everyone else who met the challenge. On the flipside, if everyone can bring out their challenge coin, the challenger loses the bet and buys everyone a round of drinks instead.
Because there are countless organizations bearing their own custom military coins, there are many different versions of the challenge. One version allows a challenged person to get his coin if it is not in his pocket, as long as it is within reaching distance (i.e., he can’t go to another room to get the coin). Another version lets an individual lend an extra challenge coin to a companion sitting close to him. There is even a version, which permits a person to steal a coin from someone else. If he succeeds, he is rewarded with a round of drinks from every other challenge participant.
Although it is not unusual for members to carry their challenge coin in their pocket or a pouch, some have taken to drilling a hole through it to make it easier to carry around his person. Because of this, most challenges disqualify a defaced coin, whether it be attached to a string and hung around the neck, or turned into a keychain attached to a belt loop.
Because many coin challenges are issued within military groups, rules concerning the ranks of the challengers and persons challenged also exist. For example, a military coin from an officer of higher rank outranks all coins by low-ranking officers; hence, most of the time, all lower-ranking officers must buy the highest-ranking officer an extra drink.
Of course, while a military coin is famous as an item to issue challenges, this is not its only use. This coin is also used as an award to recognize outstanding performance in the line of duty. Even non-military individuals are sometimes awarded with a coin, like what happened to several student athletes at the Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.
These days, we live in a relatively more peaceful time:
We no longer need to carry around a challenge coin as proof of our identity and affiliation to a particular group. Still, many veterans may still collect and carry around a military coin whenever they leave their home.
However, these custom military coins do not serve as mere mementos. Former and current service members consider these coins as source of pride and proof of their association with a group whom they have served with, usually in a past war.
We at ChallengeCoins4Less understand the importance of military coins to their owners. Because of this, we make sure that every challenge coin we produce has a unique design, which will distinguish it from all other military coins. We know how a difference in color or engraving spells the difference between two military units. We show this by making sure to provide the best and most unique design that veteran and active military service members require of us because we honor them.