Challenge coins are usually associated with the military, because they have been most frequently used in this field. However, their popularity has increased significantly in the last decades, and nowadays, they can also be found in other government facilities, but also in different corporations or social clubs. Despite the fact that their popularity has increased, the purpose of the challenge coins remains the same: to provide unity between the members of a team. Let’s dig a little deeper into the matter, and see the origin of the military challenge coins as well as some fun ways in which they are being used nowadays.

Origins

The oldest historic reference that involves military coins, dates back to the roman empire, which used to reward high achievements by presenting the soldiers with coins. Later on, during the Renaissance, special coins were used to commemorate royal events. It was common for nobility to have their house seal on one side of the coin and either the royal seal or their patron’s seal on the other side. Their popularity increased during the World War I. It is said that it all began with a lieutenant that had personalized bronze medallions given to its unit. After some time, a young pilot who was a member of its unit found himself captured by the Germans. He was keeping the medallion in a leather pouch tied around his neck and while the Germans confiscated all his belongings, they didn’t bother to get the leather pouch which seemed without value. Later on, the young pilot managed to escape the Germans and made it to small French town. The French believed him to be a spy, since he didn’t have any sort of identification, and were planning to execute him, but luckily the young pilot was able to prove his identity with the help of the bronze medallion. When he got back to his squadron, it became customary for all members to carry the coin at all times and produce it upon demand. As a joke, they created a challenge, so if a member of a unit didn’t carry the medallion with him, he would have to buy a round of drinks for all his team members. In time, the story of this squadron became quite popular and people in different teams or clubs started using custom challenge coins as a way to build unity within their teams.

Popular references

Challenge coins have been pictured in numerous movies, a fact which obviously contributed to the increase of their popularity. They appeared in numerous TV-series from NCIS to Chase or Criminal Minds, and they also appeared in numerous movies, thus becoming an integrated part of pop culture. Many USA presidents have impressive collections of challenge coins, and Bill Clinton even has his collection on display under his portrait at the White House. Outside the military and the movies, many popular organizations use custom challenge coins from NASCAR to NFL or the Harley Owners Group.

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