Amazing Facts About Challenge Coins

Have you ever heard anything about challenge coins? Have you seen one in particular? All people know what a coin looks like, their worth and their uses but most of us have no idea what these coins are.

Challenge coins are basically medallions that feature an organization’s emblem and are given to their respective members. Traditionally, these coins are given to prove membership when challenged and are used to enhance the morale of the members. These coins or medallions are given by unit commanders to their unit members as a token of recognition for a special achievement.

Challenge Coins

These medallions are usually given by the military- armed forces, navy, air force, etc. But nowadays, they are also given by some organizations as a token of recognition to those who visited them.

Historical Accounts

Now, we already know what challenge coins are. So, let’s have a glance in history where these coins started to appear and be in use.

In Ancient Rome, soldiers are monetarily rewarded for valor. If they performed well or they had a special achievement in battle, they would receive their typical daily wages. An extra coin would also be added that serves as their bonus.

It was recorded that some of these specially minted coins have a mark of the legion from which they came, thus, prompting some men to keep their special coin as a memento, instead of spending them on women and wine.

One popular story also happened during World War I. Before the United States entered into war in 1917, American volunteers from all over the country filled the newly formed flying squadron. Some of them were wealthy scions from Yale and Harvard who quit mid-term to join the war.

In a certain squadron, an affluent lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze, and he presented them to those who belonged to his unit. One young pilot placed his coin inside a small pouch, which he wore as a pendant. After receiving his medallion, his aircraft peppered with ground fire. He was forced to land and was instantly captured by German patrols.

These German patrols tried to discourage his escape by confiscating everything he had with him except for the small leather pouch around his neck that contains his medallion. Then, he was taken to a small French town near the front.

That night, the town was bombarded so he took advantage and was able to escape. Unfortunately, he had no personal identification aside from that small leather pouch that contains his coin.

The young pilot successfully avoided German patrols by donning himself with civilian clothes and reached front lines. Though he had great difficulties crossing no man’s land, he stumbled upon a French outpost.

The French outpost in that sector was plagued by saboteurs who masqueraded themselves as civilians. So, when the French soldiers didn’t recognize the young pilot’s American accent, they suspected him for a saboteur and were made ready to execute him.

Since he had no proof of his identity and allegiance, he showed the content of his pouch to his French captors. One of them recognized the insignia of the squadron which caused the delay of his execution just long enough to confirm his true identity. Later, they gave him a bottle of wine instead of executing him.

Even after these two historical accounts where challenge coins started to appear and be used by soldiers, there are still a lot of events in history where these special coins are produced, given and come to be in use. But there is also another interesting fact; a certain tradition comes with these coins. Maybe this is also one of the reasons why these coins are called challenge coins.

The Challenge

A challenger would ask another to show his challenge coin. If the challenged soldier cannot show his medallion, he would buy a drink of choice to the challenger. But if he shows the medallion, the one who challenged him will pay for the drinks.

So, there we have it. At least, now we know that this special stuff exists.


Author Bio:
These coins or medallions are given by unit commanders to their unit members as a token of recognition for a special achievement. Visit for more details.