Challenge coins are originally called military challenge coins and are first used as a symbol of affiliation to a military unit, brigade, or troop. Custom challenge coins were first created and produced during World War 1 when an Ivy League educated airman have these coins produced and gave it to the members of his crew. These coins are used for challenging, but United States military officers have developed a long standing tradition of carrying and taking these coins wherever they go as a symbol of esprit de corps and unit identity. These coins are produced as a token for unparalleled military service. Each coin bears the revered symbol and motto of military service. Challenge coins are carried by soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors. Whenever they get together at a bar or a party, these coins are used for challenging. But more than that, soldiers who fought during World War I, World War II, and the Civil War left the war with a coin in their pockets and kept it as a memento after the battle. It became a treasured remembrance of their experiences during the war.
The challenge coins gained popularity during the Vietnam War. These coins were inspired by the special armed forces unit who have created and produced these coins as a symbol of their solidarity, unity, identification, and affiliation. Other units deployed during the Vietnam War wanted to produce their own unit or brigade custom challenge coins to celebrate their units’ identity. These coins are produced to symbolize the pride, camaraderie and membership in an elite military group. A challenge coin is considered as a tangible symbol and a source of pride amongst brave military officers who have selflessly served their country.
One of the oldest challenge coins is the 17th Infantry Coin of Korea. This coin is also known as the “Buffalo Coin”. It was named after Colonel Buffalo Bill Quinn, the infantry regiment who ordered the production of these custom challenge coins.
However, another story claims that the production and use of challenge coins dates back to the peak of the Roman Empire. Commemorating coins were first used by different Roman legions. One of these legions, Legio X Fratensis, made coins to commemorate battles, wars, and their victories. Many historians believe that this fact should be counted and included in the history of custom military challenge coins. Challenge coins are also used as campaign coins during the 1824 elections.
But whether the use of these coins has started during the World War 1 or during the golden age of the Roman Empire, one thing is for sure. These coins are used up to this day to symbolize honor, identity, and excellence. Custom challenge coins are used and produced even outside the military. The Masonic brothers, for example, are producing and distributing custom challenge coins as a symbol of affiliation to the group. It was believed that the Ivy League airman who first ordered the production of challenge coins in the military is a Masonic brother. After the World War I, many members of the military became Masons. These military officers have decided to embrace the military challenge coin tradition and started producing and designing challenge coins that bear the Masonic emblem.
Custom challenge coins are also used in academic institutions, fraternities, businesses, corporations, and civic groups.Challenge coins are also produced to honor and recognize the outstanding performance of the employees of other government sectors and entities. Challenge coins, as the name suggests, is a tool that symbolizes the capacity and ability to accomplish a mission or overcome a challenge. It is a badge of honor that is widely used even up to this day.