Challenge Coins, A Military Tradition Now Crossing Borders!

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fingers holding a challenge coinThis small ornate coin or medallion, has been present in American military history for more than 100 years now.  The tradition of challenge coins started in the US armed forces and adopted by every branch of law enforcement departments such as police, firefighters, army, air force, and more.

The origin of challenge coins

Their origin is impossible to be fully verified. Some stories relate them to as early as the Roman Empire. But the most popular story connects the challenge coins to an American pilot at the beginning of World War I. A lieutenant ordered coins made of solid bronze for his unit. As a member of that unit, a  pilot carried his own around his neck, inside a leather pouch. Captured by French soldiers, the pilot managed to prove his identity and his affiliation with the American military by showing them the medallion. Although there is a lot of mystery around their origin, we truly love this particular story.

The traditional symbolism of challenge coins

Military challenge coins were mainly used to show an association with a particular unit and honor one’s special achievements. Coins are also made to celebrate special significant days like Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, cadet graduations and many other military events. Service members and veterans have hundreds of challenge coins. It makes for one of the proudest items they possess

Challenge coins evolution into modern

Over the last decades, these coins have spread even to non-military organizations, corporations or special events.  As a form of presenting membership and as evidence of continuing a valued tradition. These coins are frequently used today by non-profit organizations, volunteer associations or charities; or even companies who what to engage employees in friendly competition or reward special achievement. Custom challenge coins are easily personalized, becoming a prefect item to identify a cause or outcome, adding a touch of uniqueness into events. If curious to see some great examples of traditional and modern design, check out The Monterey Company, leaders in this industry, producing challenge coins for more than 30 years.

Challenge coins are becoming collector items

Nowadays, challenge coins are becoming collector items too. Collectors are starting to hunt the coins. They are especially valuable if associated with a distinct military unit or special historical event. Of course, most of them are more interested in their sentimental value than their market value.

”Buy A Drink’’ challenge tradition

Now, do you remember the American pilot, who legend said started the challenge coin history?  Well, he started another tradition too!  After proving his American military association, he was then presented with a bottle of wine. The soldering unit later required all members to carry their medallion or coin, and anyone who did not carry it was required to buy a drink for whoever asked to see it. That challenge remains in effect today and is a fun way to honor the tradition of wearing your organizational affiliation with pride.

Time to design your own unique challenge coins

With the right manufacturer company, you can design a stunning challenge coin. The Monterey Company has been the challenge coin maker and industry leader in Military, police, and fire academy coins for nearly thirty years. You just need to tell them your ideas and they will design a perfect challenge coin for you.

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