What is a challenge coin? It has a rich history and many uses today in the military and other organizations. Find out more in our article.

A challenge coin is a custom metal coin or medallion carried or traded by military personnel. The term “challenge” comes from the tradition where military members carried their unit’s coin and were challenged by other members to show their coin. The challenge is popular in the US military and has influenced other organizations—such as police and fire departments—to adopt similar practices. It is not uncommon to see corporations producing challenge coins for military appreciation or for coins to be minted for conventions or to commemorate retirement. Here a few of the common traditions and uses of challenge coins:

Buy A Drink Tradition: This scenario takes place at a restaurant or bar. If a military member does not have his/her unit’s coin when challenged by other members to produce it, he/she is responsible for buying the other members’ drinks. This was originally started between members of the same unit, but now this tradition is widely accepted across all units and branches. Members of a unit without a coin, or members who are no longer active duty, will often carry a coin that was presented to them or a coin that has some important meaning to them.

Accomplishment and award recognition: It is common for a senior officer to have a challenge coin and to give it to a junior military member when they have done something extraordinary. This boosts morale and creates pride in achievement. You will also see a challenge coin embedded into plaques, acrylic, shadow boxes or other objects when given as a gift.

Giving a Challenge Coin in a handshake: A popular tradition is for a challenge coin to be given in a handshake. The challenge coin is hidden in the palm of the presenter’s hand as he/she shakes the hand of the recipient to surprise him/her with the gifted coin.

Challenge Coins for track a career. Since almost every unit has a coin, military members like to collect and display the coins of all the units they were stationed with or visited. Over a career, it is not uncommon for military members to have hundreds of challenge coins. There are many displays on the market for presenting these coins on tabletop or on a wall.

Collecting Challenge Coins. Many military members and supporters have collected coins beyond the ones they received during their career. Many people buy coins online or at events. Many places like national parks carry challenge coins in their gift shops for collectors. This has made some senior officials’ coins and special forces’ coins very valuable.  On eBay you can find challenge coins going for thousands of dollars.

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