History of the Challenge Coin
What’s the Story of Your Challenge Coin?
How many times have you heard the question, “what is a challenge coin?” If you know the answer to the question you are probably a collector. If you don’t know the answer this may be helpful.
Honestly, nobody really knows the complete history of the challenge coin. Yes, challenge coins have their roots in military history, but exactly where in military history no one specifically knows. Some say the challenge coin can be traced back to the Roman Empire. Roman issued currency often depicted human silhouettes and detailed etchings of Cesar much like modern challenge coins. But these currencies weren’t necessarily exchanged and collected in the way that a modern challenge coin is exchanged and collected; they held monetary value.
Challenge coins do not hold a monetary value. Instead, they act as more of an identifier. Rumor has it that during World War I an unnamed lieutenant used a coin for exactly this purpose. Carrying a coin with his unit’s insignia allowed the lieutenant to safely identify his ranking as he crossed the enemy border into France after being shot down over Germany. The insignia on his coin was recognized and his life spared. The lieutenant’s coin held no other value outside of its power to correctly identify.
Another questionable and debatable topic surrounds the history of the term “challenge” that is placed in front of “coin”. The challenge works like this: if one does not have his or her coin with them when “challenged” to present, then they are buying the drinks for everyone who does have a coin to present. This unexpected confrontation always lends itself to fun. Over the years of designing challenge coins, we have heard a number of personal stories about some great challenges. One soldier spoke to us about getting “challenged” when parachuting. Another military man told us about getting “challenged” on a scuba mission. So many shared stories–such great timing.
We have heard countless stories from around the world, but we have never spent the time to archive these stories. So in an effort to properly archive your history, we are asking for your participation.
Each one of your coins tell a story about your specific organization’s history, mission, goal or success. What is at the heart of your challenge coin’s design? We want to know your history!
Please share your stories with us by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We plan to collect your personal stories and post them on our website. If your story gets posted on our site, we will be happy to send you a free challenge coin to add to your collection.
This will be fun! These stories will help build a more accredited history of these unique collectible coins and will also generate a greater understanding of their use and purpose for those still asking, “What is a challenge coin?”
As an example of what we are looking for C. Forbes owner Chip Forbes has decided to share this story,
“One of my personal favorites is the story of the Widow’s Mite found in the 12th Chapter of the Book of Mark, and the 21st Chapter of the Book of Luke, in the Bible. Even though it’s not technically a story about a “challenge” coin it is a rich story about the value of the small coins. The widow’s coin held monetary value, but her specific use and donation of her coin held a larger and more personal value. This value was in the Widow’s heart. Her coin was used in a more personal way than regular currency.”
C. Forbes Inc wants to help you tell your story through the symbolism of a custom challenge coin. We have helped many customers just like you through the process of designing, minting, and supplying personalized challenge coins. We’ve been doing so for twenty years now. Our history with coins is just as unique as each and every single coin we’ve produced. This twenty-year history of custom coin design has taught our in-house art department the power of utilizing each and every aspect of a coin’s creation. Today’s challenge coins are often decorated with color–a design aspect we recommend be used to complement the detail and relief on a coin. Generally fabricated out of brass or nickel silver, each challenge coin has a unique story–a story that is in the value of the presentation.
But remember to keep it close at hand, or you may be buying everyone drinks!