Challenge Coin Collecting 101

Table of Contents

Challenge coins have become a popular collectible item in recent years, with many people interested in the history and significance behind these unique coins. In this article, we will explore the history of challenge coins, the different types of challenge coins, challenge coin etiquette, and tips for starting a challenge coin collection.


I. Introduction

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Challenge coins are custom-made coins that are used to signify membership in a particular group or organization. These coins are typically given to members of the group as a way of recognizing their service or achievements. Challenge coins can be made from a variety of materials, such as nickel, copper, or pewter, and can feature various finishes. The significance of challenge coins lies in the sense of camaraderie and belonging that they provide to their owners.

What is a Challenge Coin


II. What Is The History of Challenge Coins?

Challenge coins have a rich history that dates back to military traditions. The most commonly accepted origin story of challenge coins dates back to World War I, when a wealthy lieutenant in the United States Army Air Service had bronze coins made for his unit. One of the pilots in the unit carried his coin in a small leather pouch around his neck, and when he was captured by the Germans, he was able to use his coin to prove his identity and avoid execution. This story is often cited as the beginning of the challenge coin tradition.

However, there are other stories of challenge coins being used in military history, such as the Roman tradition of giving coins to soldiers for bravery in battle. Regardless of the true origin story, challenge coins have become a popular tradition in the military and beyond, with many organizations creating their own custom coins.

Challenge coins have also made their way into popular culture, with appearances in movies and television shows. One notable example is the challenge coin featured in the movie “The Kingsman,” which serves as a plot point in the film.

Complete History of Challenge Coins – From 723 BC


III. What Are The Types of Challenge Coins?

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There are several types of challenge coins, including military challenge coins, custom challenge coins for organizations and events, and souvenir challenge coins.


Commemorative Challenge Coins

Commemorative challenge coins are used to celebrate a significant event or milestone. They are often given as a gift to commemorate a retirement, anniversary, or a major achievement. The design of these coins may include the date, event, or an image that represents the occasion. Custom challenge coin is a popular gift idea in nowadays.


Award Challenge Coins

Award challenge coins are given to individuals as a token of appreciation for their exceptional service or achievement. These coins are usually designed with the recipient’s name, rank, and achievement on one side, and the organization’s emblem on the other side. Civilian challenge coins exist today.


Souvenir Challenge Coins

Souvenir challenge coins are designed to commemorate a place, specific events, or occasion. They are usually sold as collectibles and are often found in gift shops or tourist attractions. These coins may feature a particular landmark, a famous person, or an event that took place in that location.


Corporate Challenge Coins

Corporate challenge coins are used by companies and government organizations, as a promotional tool. They are designed with the organization’s logo, mission statement, or a message that promotes their brand. These coins are usually given to employees, clients, or customers as a token of appreciation or as a way to promote brand awareness.


Military Challenge Coins

Military challenge coins are designed to represent a particular military unit, branch, or rank. These coins are often used to boost morale among military members and to recognize the achievements of military personnel. They may include the unit’s emblem, mission, or motto on one side, and the other side may have the rank or name of the individual.


IV. Challenge Coin Etiquette

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Challenge coin etiquette refers to the customs and rules that govern the handling and display of challenge coins. Whether you are a collector or an active member of a group that uses challenge coins, it is essential to know the appropriate etiquette to avoid offending others or compromising the integrity of the coin.


1. The Rules of Challenge Coin

Challenge coins are a symbol of honor and respect, and they’re often given out for specific achievements or as a token of appreciation. If you’re given a challenge badge or coin, it’s important to follow these rules:


Rule #1: Always Carry Your Coin

If you’re given a challenge coin, you should always carry it with you. It’s considered bad form to be caught without your coin when someone initiates a challenge.


Rule #2: Understand the Rules of the Game

The rules of the challenge game can vary depending on the organization, but the basic idea is this: if someone slams their challenge coin on a surface and says “coin check,” everyone in the group must produce their challenge coin. If someone can’t produce their coin, they owe a round of drinks or some other penalty.


Rule #3: Don’t Give Away Your Coin

If you’re challenged and you produce your coin, you’ve won the game. But if you lose and you give your coin away, you’ve lost it forever. It’s considered bad luck to give away your coin, and it’s a sign of disrespect to the person who gave it to you.


Rule #4: Know When to Initiate a Challenge

Initiating a challenge can be a great way to bond with your friends and fellow members, but it’s important to do it at the right time. You don’t want to initiate a challenge when someone is in the middle of an important task or if it would be inappropriate.


Rule #5: Always Respect the Coin

Challenge coins are a symbol of honor and respect, and they should be treated as such. Never deface or damage a challenge coin, and always handle it with care.


2. Displaying and Carrying Challenge Coins

Challenge coins are meant to be displayed, presented and shared, so it is important to know how to carry and present them properly.

  1. Do not touch another person’s challenge coin without permission.
  2. Carry your coin in a safe and respectful way. Many people wear them on a lanyard around their neck or carry them in a special case.
  3. Do not use your coin as a bargaining chip or currency. It is disrespectful to the tradition and the members of the organization.


3. Trading and Gifting Challenge Coins

Challenge coins are often exchanged as gifts or traded between members of an organization service members or collectors. When gifting or trading coins, follow these guidelines:

  1. Only give or trade coins to people who are worthy of them. You should not give your coin to just anyone.
  2. Always respect the significance of the coin and the organization it represents.
  3. Do not sell your challenge coins. They are meant to be a symbol of brotherhood or sisterhood, not a commodity.


V. Starting a Challenge Coin Collecting Now.

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If you’re interested in starting a challenge coin collection, there are several ways to find coins to add to your collection. The most common way is by attending military and veteran events, such as parades and ceremonies, where challenge coins are often given out as souvenirs or prizes.

Additionally, you can search online auction sites, military surplus stores, and antique shops for challenge coins.

When adding coins to your collection, it’s important to evaluate their value and rarity. The value of a coin is determined by its rarity, condition, and historical significance. Rare coins that are in good condition and have a notable historical background will be worth more than common coins or those in poor condition. It’s important to do your research before purchasing a coin to ensure you’re getting a fair price.

Once you have started collecting challenge coins, it’s important to display and organize them properly. There are many options for displaying challenge coins, including shadow boxes, coin holders, and display cases. You can also organize your own challenge coins by theme, such as military branches or specific campaigns.

For specific knowledge, please read Top 5 challenge coin display ideas-Show Your Pride


In conclusion, challenge coin collecting is a fascinating hobby with a rich history and unique traditions. Understanding the history and etiquette of challenge coins is essential for collectors to fully appreciate the significance of these coins. By following the rules and etiquette of challenge coin collecting, collectors can maintain the honor and integrity of the military tradition.

If you need to custom challenge coins, welcome to reach out. Fill the below form, we are happy to help.

Top 12 Most Rare Military Challenge Coins

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