Challenge coins have a very interesting history. Tied to the military and used as a symbol for belonging to a secret society, challenge coins provide a visible and portable reminder for members. The lowly challenge coin has been revered and handed down for generations. It has been used as a reminder of a special event in the life of a community, an organization and as a tool for recruitment.
1. Challenge Coins are Valuable Collector Items
Challenge Coins Limited said, “Steeped in history, challenge coins provide a unique perspective to the origins of a military unit or organization.” They are quite often used because of their inexpensive cost to produce as a way to promote an organization. For many coin collectors, the rare challenge coin has a value that sometimes surpasses an ordinary coin.
The content of the coin also determines its value. As you may suspect, challenge coins that have solid gold content tend to cost more than those that are made with brass and zinc-alloy. Another factor is the rarity of the challenge coin. Organizations that are no longer in existence who issued challenge coins are valuable keepsakes.
2. Challenge Coin Rules are steeped in History
Traditionally, challenge coins were used for identification purposes, but the original use in Ancient Rome was to recognize a soldier’s achievement. It fell out of use for centuries until what was then known as the “Great War” and later named WWI in 1917. At that time a wealthy lieutenant had bronze medallions made for his unit.
The rule was that you needed to present your coin or face the consequences. For the young flyer stranded behind enemy lines during WWI, the presentation of his medallion saved his life. The consequences of not presenting your challenge coin are not that severe, but military and civilian organizations do have challenge rules that members must adhere to in order to maintain their membership.
3. Buying A Round of Drinks is The Most Popular Challenge
This challenge came into existence during WWII as a way to increase morale among the troops. American soldiers adopted the challenge from a local German tradition of buying a round of drinks for anyone who didn’t produce a pfenning when asked to do so.
Although the challenge coin was still used as identification, the adopted German tradition became quite popular with the soldiers who would slam down their medallions and challenge their fellow soldiers to do the same. Anyone who couldn’t produce the medallion fast enough was liable to buy drinks for the challenger.
4. Passing the Challenge Coin by Secret Handshake is an Effective Recruiting Tool
Secret societies and organizations often use challenge coins as way to recruit members. The challenge coin with the organizations’ symbols and logo send a clear message that “you are now one of us.” Secret handshakes also provide an avenue for people to acknowledge achievements.
Mainly used in the military as a way to secretly acknowledge a service member, challenge coins are quite often used to recruit a new member or to encourage existing members with their service.
5. Challenge Coins were First Used by the Military, but Now Have Civilian Usage
The change from a basically military use to identify units and increase morale gradually came due to the inexpensive custom design and content in the coins. Ex-military personnel realized that civilians were deprived on the camaraderie they experienced with the challenge coins, so they introduced the tradition. The market for challenge coins opened up with new technology designed to customize coins to match organization’s designs and logos.
An interesting collocation happened when the civilian organizations started using the challenge coins. For many organizations the challenge coin remained as purely an identifying feature and not as an actual challenge coin. Some organization did actually adopt the tradition of having a “coin check” that involved buying the challenger a drink or a round of drinks for everyone.
Some of the non-traditional uses for challenge coins are as a commemorative piece for an anniversary or to celebrate a grand opening of a store. Challenge coins are highly collective and inexpensive to buy and share with others.