What is a Challenge Coin

By: Taylor McKnight
Posted on Nov 11, 2023

challenge coins

What is a Challenge Coin and How Does It Related to the Military

A challenge coin is a specially designed coin that is given to someone to confirm their membership in an organization or for a special achievement. They are traditionally associated with the United States Armed Forces, where they've been part of a tradition that goes back over 100 years. They can also be given out to firefighters, police officers, and other first responders to honor special accomplishments in the line of duty.


What Do Challenge Coins Represent?

In most cases, a challenge coin represents a person's membership in a branch of the United States Military. Some coins merely show that a person is a member of the military, while others might show a person's rank. Others still might be given out to celebrate an accomplishment within the military or the participation of a major military operation.

Challenge coins have also been given out by government and law enforcement agencies to first responders to honor their accomplishments in the line of duty. A firefighter or an emergency medical technician might receive a challenge coin for their quick response during a natural disaster. This was the case when the Environmental Protection Agency spent $8,500 on challenge coins to honor those who responded to the hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico and Texas in 2017. More recently, corporations have begun making challenge coins with their logos to hand out at conferences and trade shows in lieu of business cards.


The History of Challenge Coins

The history of challenge coins is rather difficult to discern. Some suggest that the tradition of challenge coins dates back to the Roman Empire when soldiers would be rewarded with coins bearing their legion's insignia.

As the modern American challenge coin tradition, that may have started during World War I. According to legend, the leader of a flying squadron commissioned the creation of bronze medallions that were given out to his fellow pilots. One pilot was lost behind enemy lines, where he lost everything except his medallion. He was captured by French soldiers who suspected him of being a German saboteur, but he was able to prove that he was an American pilot by showing his medallion, which contained his squadron's insignia. As the story was passed on, American soldiers began carrying similar coins as a form of identification.

The tradition of using challenge coins as identification continued through World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. As time went on, challenge coins became less of a means of identification and more of a way to celebrate a person's involvement in the armed forces and all that they have accomplished. Bill Clinton learned even learned about the tradition of challenge coins and began rewarding his own coins to military personnel. The tradition of the presidential challenge coin continues to this day and remains an integral part of the relationship between the president of the United States and the armed forces.

Even though it's unclear how the tradition of challenge coins began, it is still an important part of American military culture. They're a great way to honor soldiers for their service, and they will hold a special place in military tradition for years to come.

Written by Taylor McKnight, Author for Challenge Coins Ltd

About the author Taylor McKnight:
Author for Challenge Coins Ltd