5 Surprising Facts about Challenge Coins
While the exact history of challenge coins is not really traceable, but what we surely know is their tie with the military services and personnel. Some links its origin to World War I and some even trace the origin of these coins back to the Roman Empire where they were rewarded for acts of valor.
Whatever the exact history is, challenge coins are a symbol of belonging to a secret society and serve as a unique and visible reminder to members. These medallions are typically made of metal and are about two inches wide.
Challenge coins are held very close to the heart by military soldiers and officials. Exchanging these coins on special events between soldiers and officers is a tradition among them and is considered a sign of brotherhood and gives a sense of belonging within a group.
With time, however, these medallions have seen increasing popularity to be used in civilian events as well. With this rich history of challenge coins, you must be eager to learn more about them. Here are five interesting facts that you probably didn’t know.
1. Challenge Coins are Collector Items
For many reasons, rarity being one of them, challenge coins are valuable collector items. They are inexpensive to produce and often used as a way to promote an organization. Collectors look forward to collecting rare coins, like coins from an organization that is no longer in existence, or coins that have some value in terms of material, like coins having solid gold content.
Whatever the reason is, having something in the collection that commemorates a unit or a historical event is of value to the collectors. And that’s why these coins are sought after by the ones collecting them.
2. They Have Historical Significance
In Ancient Rome, something similar to a challenge coin was presented to soldiers to mark their valor and achievement. However, this practice fell out of use until World War I when a rich lieutenant made some of these for his own unit and handed them over to the members.
During that war, the American allies rescued a soldier and suspected him to be a German or a spy. He had nothing that he could show as an identifier but that bronze coin that his lieutenant gave him. So he presented the coin and was supposedly spared from death.
Today, the consequences of not presenting a challenge coin may not be that severe, but there are set rules among organizations and are expected to be presented if and when challenged to maintain their membership.
3. They Have a Popular Tradition
To increase the morale of the troop and to find out instances where they need to present their coins, led to a popular challenge during WWII. The troops churned out a game where the last person to put down his coin on the table has to buy the next round of drinks.
As of now, challenge coins are still used for identification, but those instances are rare. Over time, it played more of a morale booster. For soldiers, they could be at a bar and suddenly everyone slamming down their coins mean it’s time that they slam their own.
4. Used as Recruiting Tools
Challenge coins are often used to recruit new members. The tradition is to pass it down during a handshake to tell that they are now a part of the club.
They are symbolic and reminds the receiver of the achievements or the glory of the club that he is now belonging to. Mainly used in the military, they are now used in all types of recruitment efforts in civilian life as well.
5. Used for Commemorating Events
The use of challenge coins for identification during a war is no longer quite needed. So, they have found their use in civilian life where they can be presented to recognize the achievements of any staff or member of an office. Or, they can also be used to commemorate special events in life like a family reunion or a stag trip to make it more memorable. Even within the military, they are mostly used as a means of social networking or camaraderie than anything else.
Nowadays, challenge coins come in all shapes and sizes customized with logos or motto of organizations and are presented to honor the achievements of an individual in an organization or group. Each person receiving one is having a special connection to an event or an organization that makes them feel attached and tied to the elite group.