What Are Military Challenge Coins?

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quarter master challenge coins

Custom Military Challenge Coins

What are Military Challenge Coins?
How did Military Challenge Coins Get Started?
Are Challenge Coins just for the Military?

Military Coins, or Challenge Coins as they are popularly known, have been around since World War I. During that time, Air warfare was a new concept, and unlike earlier times when the militia was manned by working-class men, air squadrons were manned by men from all walks of life.  The story goes that one wealthy lieutenant had a custom coin created as a gift to his unit as a memento of their service together. This coin was gold-plated and quite valuable. One of the soldiers, who had never owned anything of value in his life, became attached to the token and began to wear it around his neck in a pouch for safe keeping.

The young soldier’s habit of sentimentally carrying the coin with him at all times would later save his life. Finding himself trapped behind enemy lines with a damaged aircraft, he struggled to return to safety without success. He was trapped by German soldiers and on his way to a permanent prisoner of war facility when, by some stroke of luck, allied forces attacked and took the German camp. However, having no form of identification after being stripped of his belongings by his captors, the French army nearly executed him thinking he may be an enemy soldier. The coin he wore around his neck was the only thing that distinguished him as an ally thus saving his life. Thus began the tradition of carrying one’s squadron coin at all times as a form of recognition.

To ensure that all pilots carried their coins the began to challenge each other. If the one being challenged couldn’t produce a coin, he was required to buy a drink for the challenger. However, if he could produce one, then the challenger had to buy the drink. You can imagine how popular this became!

As time passes, Challenge Coins are used for more than the traditional military challenge. Given out for morale, rewards, and awards,  today Challenge Coins are given to military and non-military personnel alike.

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