US Military Challenge Coins

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by schatzy, Jul 7, 2009.

  1. schatzy

    schatzy ~Roosie Fanatic~

    History of Challenge Coins

    The origins of the challenge coin are a matter of much debate with little supporting evidence, most common with many military traditions.

    The story is........
    Each member of a particular WWI airborne squadron was given a bronze medallion by their lieutenant.
    One of these soldiers was captured by the Germans and later escaped, only to be re-captured by the French. The French, not knowing that the soldier was a friendly American, were set to execute him. But before the time came, one of the Frenchmen recognized the medallion that was worn by the American and his life was spared.

    Why Are They Called Challenge Coins?

    Following World War I, it became a growing tradition to carry these medallions, or "coins", and it was a fun little game that gave them the name "challenge".
    It went something like this...
    Squadron members would challenge one another to reveal their coins. If the member being challenged did not have his or her coin on them, they would have to buy a drink for the person who challenged them. If, however, they could produce the coin, then the challenger had to buy them a drink. Thus, the "challenge coin" evolved.

    Challenge Coins today

    Today challenge coins are everywhere in the military. Besides using coins for challenging, they are also used as rewards or awards. Most higher ranking officers have challenge coins made so that they may give them out as rewards. Bill Clinton had coins made so that he could give them out to military people. Getting a challenge coin from high ranking official was like be one of the proud and the few. Most of them would get 1000 coins made and they were usually numbered so you were only 1 of 1000 to have the coin. Almost all career military people I now have a challenge coin rack with all of the different units that they have been in.

    Many other organizations have also adopted the challenge coins like police departments, fire departments, nascar, NFL, colleges, fraternities, special clubs, etc.

    Are Challenge Coins Worth Collecting?

    Most coins are really not worth much and really only carry sentimental value. Many collectors just collect them for the fun of it. I collected them while I was in the Navy and have about 10 of them but I only bought a couple of them and the rest were given to me.

    Getting your own challenge coins made!!

    There are lots of companies out there that will make the coins for you. It usually cost a few hundred dollars to get the die made and then only a few dollars for each coin to be produced. Below is some websites of companies that make challenge coins.


    This coin was bought at the gift shop in Pearl Harbor.
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  3. Clinker

    Clinker Coin Collector

    Something historically nice, deserved and collectible. Thankd for the post anincluding the pics...

  4. bobbeth87

    bobbeth87 Coin Collector

    I learned something new. Much appreciated. Thanks for the great post!!!!
  5. schatzy

    schatzy ~Roosie Fanatic~

    This is what really got me in coin collecting!!
  6. danisanub

    danisanub Finance Major

    Here's mine I received from my Uncle when he retired from the Navy. He was a nuclear submarine captain, and he had only two of these. My cousin got the other one.


  7. schatzy

    schatzy ~Roosie Fanatic~

    Danisanub...very cool coin.

    Thanks for the nomination guys!!
  8. andy21us

    andy21us Coin Hoarder

    That is very good Schatzy, you are one of the first that has gotten the history of the challenge coins right. And I am very impress, not a lot of people know the true history of these coins.

    I'm not sure how the other services award their coins but the Air Force had a tradition when I joined that you had to earn the coins, much like you described in the posting, but today it seem like they hand them out at a whim, and as you also stated you can go online and buy them which I feel it takes away for that tradition.

    In my 29 years in the Air Force I have been awarded 4 Challenge Coins. 3 of them I recieved for being deployed to the operations theaters of: Operation Joint Endeavor and Deny Flight in Iraq, Operation Shining Hope for the Kosovo Relief, and Operation Noble Eagle/Enduring Freedom for everthing after 9/11.

    But my Prize Challenge Coins is my Pararescue Coin which was awarded to me after my frist rescue operation in Guyana.

    Attached Files:

  9. bobbeth87

    bobbeth87 Coin Collector

    Before this thread, I knew nothing about these coins.

    Thank you, thank you, for this knowledge. This is just really, really cool. Great looking coins, they are. I can't wait to ask my career Navy nephew about them now....
  10. schatzy

    schatzy ~Roosie Fanatic~


    I was in the Navy from 2001-2009 and no they really don't just hand them out like nothing. I have 5 coins that were given to me while I was in. 3 of them are for making E-4, E-5, E-6. The other one was from the Rear Admrial of 6th Fleet, I got a Letter of Commendation from him and he gave me a coin when he gave me the award. I also got one from the Master Chief of the boat during a test fire drill.

    Every ship and duty station that I went to had there own challenge coins made and you can usually buy them for about $5. I always bought a coin and zippo!!
  11. schatzy

    schatzy ~Roosie Fanatic~

    Thanks for the compliment!!

    I can bet you your Nephew has some and he can maybe get you a few!:rolleyes:
  12. schatzy

    schatzy ~Roosie Fanatic~

    Here is a picture of the MCPON (Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) giving one of his coins away!!

  13. andy21us

    andy21us Coin Hoarder

    I did not say that the Navy handed them out like nothing. I said that I did not know how the other services awarded their coins but the Air Force started hand them out at a shim. It is good that the Navy is still holding on to the tradition. The only coin that the AF hands out for rank is E-9 Chief Master Sergeant, which is realy the only coin earned anymore in the AF.
  14. schatzy

    schatzy ~Roosie Fanatic~

    I know, I was just letting you know how it worked in the navy.

    I know E-8 that had there own coins.

    They also give you a coin when you graduate AF boot camp.
  15. Ripley

    Ripley Senior Member

    Great thread.....My spouse is retired USAF we have a few of these from back in the day. Our favorite is the 1947 USAF coin.
  16. Ardatirion

    Ardatirion Où est mon poisson

    Challenge coins are very cool. A truly fascinating branch of numismatics. But I could never collect them, I can't shake the feeling that I wouldn't be the rightful owner of the coin. Same reason I steer clear of military medals.
  17. Crazycoin

    Crazycoin New Member

    Great read!!

    I was in the military and really didn't know what the history behind the coins.
  18. schatzy

    schatzy ~Roosie Fanatic~

    If you were in the military you could have collected them, but I do see your point.

    Since I got out of the Navy I have not bought any more. I only bought the ones that meant something to me.
  19. Strikeluster

    Strikeluster New Member

    Thats a Nice Collection of Challeng Coins.

    Your Collection is really Nice.

    I served with the 82 Airborne from 1978 to 1982 still got my coin from them and I served with the 10th Special Forces Grp. from 82-85. My challenge coin from Special Forces is made of solid silver and they engraved my name on it. It is more valuable to me then any morgan I own, thanks for showing your collection. I am new to CT and am still trying to understand how to upload photos or I would post it here for you to see.

    Thank you,

  20. TennLee

    TennLee Junior Member

    I'm in the Air Force now, and my unit (Communications) has a coin. We also use them for trade. When our members visit other units, they take the coins and trade them for others.
  21. Shoewrecky

    Shoewrecky Coin Hoarder

    If you are looking for some I have a couple of Coast Guard, Air Force and Army tokens that I may part with. Let me know.
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