The History Of Challenge Coins

Challenge Coins are getting popular nowadays. They come in different customized designs already. These challenge coins are also popularly known as custom military coins because they used to be exclusive for military groups only. Carrying military coins is one of the well-respected traditions. They instill pride and unit identity to the people who carry them. Military coins are not merely tokens or medallions. They symbolize camaraderie, unity, and loyalty.

The History Of Challenge Coins Are As Follows:

Since challenge coins have become normal mediums of appreciation and recognition nowadays, many people became curious about their history. They wanted to know how it all started. The story below has already gained popularity. This is the most documented and familiar story about the custom military coins.

It was during World War I when military coins earned their importance. American volunteers from different parts of the country gathered in Europe for an important mission. They formed a flying troop. Before deployment, a superior ordered coins that are made of bronze and gave them to his unit. Each of them received custom military coins. There is this young pilot who hid the coin in a small bag that he wore around his neck. Then after a few hours, because of a fortuitous event, the young pilot’s aircraft was seriously damaged that he needed to land in an unwelcome territory of Germany.

Challenge Coin

This young pilot was later on captured and temporarily held in detention facility. For him to not escape, the Germans confiscated all his things. The only left to him was that medallion in a small leather pouch. The young pilot later on escaped and made his way to France. The people in France thought he was a spy so they sentenced him to execution. The young pilot tried to present his medallion because that was the only thing left to him. A French soldier happened to recognize the symbol or insignia in the medallion. They postponed the execution to confirm the young pilot’s unit membership. Instead of shooting him, they let him drink some wine. Oh well, the medallion saved the day.

From that day, it became tradition to make sure that all unit members are carrying their custom military coins at all times. This was implemented through a game or challenge. There should be challenger who would demand to see the military coins. If the challenged member failed and could not present his challenge coin, he would be required to buy a drink for the challenger. If the challenged member successfully presented his custom military coins, then the challenger would be the one to pay for the drink. This tradition still continues to evolve until now.

According to other history stories, challenge coins became popular during Vietnam War. Army’s 10th or 11th Special Forces Group created the first coins. These are little more than common currency. The unit’s logo was stamped on one side. The men in unit carried them with pride. There was even a time where instead of coins, they were carrying unused bullets. These carried bullets were given as a reward for surviving a mission.

They had this idea that a certain bullet given was now a “last resort bullet”, to be used on you instead of surrendering. It was an unsafe alternative and could not be used in the challenge since they were slamming down challenge coins in this tradition. They were worried that this might cause an accident. Heads of the military decided to replace the bullets with military coins. Each unit then had their own military coins. These coins were used to commemorate hard-fought battles and given to survivors who lived to tell the story. That was the start of the production of challenge coin in that era that we still use until now.

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