Challenge coins aren’t nearly as hard to explain as they are to earn.
Carrying a challenge coin in your pocket is a well-respected practice that originated as a tactic to build camaraderie in the military. Originally these coins were strictly found in various branches of the military and other special interest groups, but they have since broken into the civilian population as a way to commemorate holidays like Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, membership, graduations and other special accomplishments. These small medallions and tokens are meant to signify that the person in possession is a member of a particular and exclusive organization.
So, what exactly does a challenge coin look like? Well, it’s different from a regular coin in that it is generally bigger, about 1.5-2 inches in diameter and 1/10-inch thick, but sizes vary widely. They also come in a variety of shapes such as shields, pentagons, arrowheads and dog tags.
The origin of the tradition of giving out challenge coins is unknown, but their popularity greatly increased during the Vietnam War in the Special Forces Units. Years later during the Persian Gulf War the popularity of these coins increased once again and they were now a common sight among these elite groups.
If these are challenge coins, then what are they challenging you to do? Legend says that the challenge began in Germany after World War II when Americans stationed there took up the local tradition of conducting “pfenning checks” (a type of currency) and if you didn’t have one during the check then you were stuck buying the beers. Over time this tradition evolved into using the unit’s medallion and members would challenge each other by slamming down a medallion on the bar and the member without one would buy a drink for the rest of the group. However, if all members were in possession of their medallion then it was the challenger who was stuck buying everyone drinks.
Challenge coins show affiliation and membership. They represent a special bond or connection. These coins have now spread to become a tradition in NASCAR, the NFL, and the World Series of Poker. Police and fire departments across the country use them as well. Monterey Company has become the leading maker of challenge coins and is known for the superb quality and artistry of these coins. We are honored to be a part of this growing and timeless tradition.