Truth be told, it has never really been quite clear when exactly challenge coins came into existence. There were a number of stories, some dating back to the Roman Empire, where the medallion was used to recognize their personnel’s achievements. In World War I and World War II, the medallions helped verify a person’s identity, so that infiltration by an enemy is avoided, in case the medallion is not presented.
According to another story, a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions for his squad. One of his pilot’s planes was forced to land in German territory and after he was captured, they took all his personal belongings except the pouch which contained his medallion. He was later transferred to a French town where he got the chance to escape. Without any identification he was able to escape death when his French captors who were about to kill him were able to recognize the medallion he was with.
From then on, it has been a practice by the soldiers to make sure that each and every member of the unit always had his medallion with him. To ensure this, a member may challenge somebody to show his medallion and if the person challenged did not show one, then he buys a drink for the challenger. However, should the challenged member show his medallion, then the challenger is obliged to pay for the drink of the person he challenged. This is the reason why eventually, the medallion was called a challenge coin.
What Are These Really Meant For?
Challenge coins were used initially by the military as a way of identification. Unlike the present dog tags used by the soldiers which indicates the personal information of the soldier, the coins usually bear the logo or the insignia of the military unit for which they were made. Some coins were used to serve as awards to recognize exemplary service to build morale. The coins were also given by military officers to non-military people to recognize outstanding service. Still other coins were issued to instill pride among famous military groups such as the Bull Dogs coins which were given only to enlisted B-52 tail gunners.
A challenge coin is given to a recipient during a handshake where the presenter gives the coin using his right hand and the awardee receives it using his right hand as well. An explanation as to why the challenge coin is given is also explained to the recipient.
In What Ways are they Being Used Currently?
The use of the coins have evolved. Currently, they are being used also by non-military personnel mainly to serve as rewards to people who performed well. The coins are usually engraved with the company’s insignia. Sometimes, on the underside is the name of the person awarding them the coin. It’s also possible to get coins that indicate the event when they were given.
Military coins, due to its rarity nowadays, have become collector’s items. However, with the use of the coins in areas other than the military, and its popular use as company mementos for good performance, challenge coin manufacture has seen growing demand. And with technology, craftsmanship is better, turnaround time is faster and costs are relatively much cheaper.
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