The challenge coin is still in use by our military, law enforcement, firefighter, and emergency medical personnel who have a career of service that goes beyond the nine-to-five of civilian life. The name “challenge coin” derives from the original military coins that were proof of participation in a group, subgroup of a larger group, or given as an award for completion of a goal or training. Many of the coins are superbly crafted works of art that are sought by collectors.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency are two US government agencies that have issued many challenge coins. All FBI and DEA agents will have proper government issued identification, but a challenge coin is an award that shows accomplishment in specific areas within the organizations. The FBI has challenge coins ranging from local field office coins to the Iraq Counter Terrorism coin. The DEA has issued coins such as its 35th Anniversary coin, which is a rare piece, to the many coins made for the various regional field offices of the DEA throughout the US.
The US Secret Service along with almost every other agency within the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of the US government has issued challenge coins. The Secret Service has coins ranging from their Firearms Training Section to the latest K-9 Service coin of the Special Operations Branch. There are some rare coins that fetch high prices on the collectors market such as the Vice President Richard B. Cheney Presentation coin. At the lower end of the collectors market are widely distributed coins such as those given out by large agencies in large numbers to both service personnel and the general public.
Custom challenge coins can be made to almost any level of artistic mastery and manufactured from common to rare metals. Full-color enameling and gold will cost more than regular die struck bronze. Putting the material cost of the custom coins aside, the honor of private, public, and government organizations providing challenge coins to their valued members leaves a lasting impression on everyone who by service is considered worthy to receive a coin.