What is a challenge coin?
Throughout our travels and interactions, we have found that when it comes to challenge coins, most people have no idea what are challenge coins–even military members on occasion do not know. Many people simply want to understand: what is a challenge coin? The idea of the challenge coin originates from WW1, where the first military pilots often had medallions associated with their squadrons. A now famous story tells of how one pilot in particular was downed in Germany. He escaped to France, where he able to show the squadron’s medallion to French soldiers in order prove he wasn’t an enemy soldier or spy. These French must surely have been asking each other: what is a challenge coin? Regardless, the idea never caught on there, but the French soldiers did offer him a bottle of wine and recognized the coin’s symbol as that of an ally.
Thus started the tradition of the challenge coin, which has since become popular throughout the military and beyond. A challenge coin is a something someone gives to another for having done something great, such as:
- Participation in an important ceremony or event
- For having done great work in a task
- As an informal award for promotion or service
- For commemorating events
- To commemorate your own promotion or retirement
Beyond the history, there are other important elements to the question of what is a challenge coin. Among these elements are what goes into designing them. Generally, the coin represents an individual and organization, and so it typically includes important symbols and images that pridefully show who you are, all of which accurately and professionally shows your organization or event off.
Another important part of this question we are asking–what is a challenge coin–involves the tradition of giving them away. Typically, challenge coins are given away from the palm of the giver’s hand, into the palm of the recipient’s hand, using a handshake. It is generally not meant to be seen by others, which is symbolic of the challenge coin being given away as an informal award, particularly if it is given away by a senior person to a lower-ranking person. As you can see in the photos on the right, some Presidents could do a better job at adhering to these traditions than they currently are. Perhaps they should be asked the question, what is a challenge coin, sir?
Normally, you take pride in the challenge coin by displaying it prominently somewhere to be seen by you and all others who enter your home, or by comparing coins while partaking of a cold frothy beverage.
At a bar, try out this challenge coin tradition as a test to see who around you truly knows what are challenge coins. First, slap your coin on the bar or table. Second, everyone else with you must present their coins, or buy a round. Third, if everyone shows their coins, then you buy the round. Keep one of your coins with you at all times, and start a new challenge coin tradition in your own way!
President Obama Giving a Challenge Coin
President Trump Giving a Challenge Coin
Presidential Challenge Coin