The history of the challenge coin is a long and storied one, but many Americans aren’t familiar with these important tokens of tradition.
Challenge coins have been around since the turn of the 20th century and have one of the more interesting histories to learn about. If you’re unsure of what these coins represent to people and why they remain popular, you’ll want to read on.
We’ll walk you through everything that you need to know.
What Is a Challenge Coin?
Let’s start with the basics. A challenge coin has a storied history, but the item itself is quite simple. It’s basically a token that takes the shape of a coin or a medallion. Generally speaking, a challenge coin will bear the name of an organization and will be given as a gift to members of that organization.
In most modern cases, the coin is given as a gift or a sign of goodwill. In some cases, the challenge coin may be given to be used as a sign of identification, but this is less common in more modern contexts.
Challenge coins are common and popular among organizations where brotherhood is a defining factor. Soldiers, police officers, first responders, firefighters, and so on all generally hold onto and distribute challenge coins.
Today, challenge coins have become more common in corporate settings as well. They may be distributed amongst members of a company or corporation, given out to those who have reached a certain rank.
The use and application of challenge coins in the modern era are constantly evolving, and there are new uses and applications each and every day. Challenge coins have only continued to grow as a tradition and center themselves as an important physical reminder of our work and relationships.
What Is the History of Challenge Coins?
We’ve spoken a good amount on what challenge coins are used for today, but where did they come from, and what does their history mean? Understanding how challenge coins were historically used can give you a better context to understand their modern-day applications.
Challenge coins, as we know them today, originally came into popularity during World War I. Many American soldiers were given coins by their commanding officers during their time overseas.
These coins were used to identify soldiers should they get separated or fall behind enemy lines. The coins were also seen as rewards for bravery in battle, and something that could be used to draw the community of men together.
They grew even more popular during World War II, with the reach of these coins stretching out across the globe. It was during this time that challenge coins began to take on a central role in the daily and nightly life of many American soldiers.
Where Challenge Coins Got Their Name
Why ‘challenge’ if the coins were generally used for identification and reward? Well, young members of the US military began to use their coins for their own purposes during the off-hours.
Soldiers who would pass time at local watering holes would start challenging each other. They began a quick-spreading game that placed the presence of these coins right at the center.
Any member of a squad could initiate what was known as a ‘coin challenge,’ which would force anyone within earshot to dig around and find their coin. These coins would need to be slapped down with force onto the bar.
If anyone didn’t have their coin on them, they would fail the challenge. They would then, generally speaking, be responsible for buying the rest of the members of their party a round of drinks.
Challenges could be initiated at any point in time, even away from the bars. The trick was, if everyone did have a coin on them, it was the initiator themselves who had to buy the round.
This game became quite popular among soldiers for many years, stretching into new wars and conflicts. Eventually, the name stuck and the titular challenge became one of the things they were most known for.
Military officers in later years eventually banned the practice as it was causing soldiers to get too rowdy.
Picking Out a Challenge Coin
Now that you know the history, you can understand how creating custom challenge coins for an organization might be beneficial. They are a great way to show appreciation, promote camaraderie, and create an enduring legacy for your organization.
There’s a reason that they are still in circulation in the military service and police department organizations of today.
They can even be a great gift for the war veteran in your life. It’s a way to thank them for many years of service and give them something physical to hold onto. They likely will also be familiar with the history and can appreciate the gravity. of what you’re giving them.
If you’re thinking of making your own custom challenge coin for an individual or organization, there are a few things to keep in mind. You’ll want to ensure that you are clearly marking the name of the organization you have in mind – the bigger the coin, the better.
Think long and hard on the design and make sure to work with a quality manufacturer to ensure that your coin comes out well.
Understanding Challenge Coins and Their History
Challenge coins have been a part of our American history and tradition for much longer than most of us have been alive.
If you want to understand the importance of these tokens, all you have to do is read through the above information. You may even decide to create a challenge coin collection of your own.
Have more questions about tradition and history? Keep scrolling on our blog for more.