(ByHellen McAdams)

The symbolism that challenge coins are carrying nowadays overcome the limits of mere affiliation to a certain organization whose emblem is engraved on the coin.

Challenge coins are most of the time associated with military organizations, but they are becoming part of the tradition in lots of other organizations outside of the army.

The popularization of challenge coins in the culture today sees them finding their use in NFL, Nascar, some poker and several fraternal organizations to name a few. At the same time, today we have many people simply collecting and assessing challenge coins value depending on their rarity, condition, design, and many other parameters.

However, the significance of these coins has remained the same throughout years. They are meant to be given to certain individuals who displayed outstanding effort and courage in challenging situations. They are also used as a way of recognition and are carried with pride and honor by the individuals who associate themselves with the organization.
Origins of the custom challenge coins

Origins of the custom challenge coins

There are numerous theories on when and where the challenge coin practice originated. One of these theories advocated usage of coins way back in Roman Empire.

Namely, coins were given to soldiers who proved themselves in battle as a form of payment. However, the coins were engraved with the specific insignia of the Empire. That made them unique, so soldiers would choose to keep the coin rather than spending it.

The most popular story of challenge coins origins is the one dating back to the World War I. When US decided to join the war in 1917, coins struck in solid bronze were presented to the volunteers of US flying squadrons.

As one American lieutenant’s plane was gunned down and he was captured by the Germans, they stripped him of his documentation and imprisoned him. When he somehow managed to escape, all identification he had left with him was his challenge coin with US army forces emblem mint on it.

Eventually, this coin was the thing that saved his life when he was captured by the French. French soldiers decided to execute him as they suspected he was a Nazi spy. However, presenting the challenge coin to them bought him the time necessary to prove his identity.

Then again, there is a prominent story that advocates that the history of challenge coins actually begins during the World War II.

This story shares a belief that these coins were given to the Office of Strategic Services personnel deployed in Nazi-occupied France. They served as the main way of recognition and were presented as the password for undercover meetings so everyone could rest assured that there were no Nazi spies present at the meeting.


Modern days

As we already mentioned above, challenge coins are finding lots of different purposes nowadays. Paying respect with the coin is a common way of showing gratitude to all the casualties of the Vietnam War for everything they had done.

Coins are an excellent way for members of an organization to show their allegiance to it. They are unique and of great sentimental value to their bearer. Therefore, it is common practice for most of the organizations who have a sizeable membership to have custom challenge coins made to present to their members.

If you are in the position to be on top of one such organization, don’t hesitate to give = your comrades something that they will be very fond of and something that will always remind them that they are part of something bigger.


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