The Uses of Modern Challenge Coins

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.

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Police Agency Challenge Coins

police challenge coins

Police agencies from around the world use challenge coins as a means to promote group unity and commemorate significant events.

Historically deriving from similar military coins, more and more police departments and agencies are using custom challenge coins to help reward their members, increase morale, and build a sense of solidarity between officers.

Challenge coins are custom designed for each department. The design will usually encompass the department’s name and a symbol or group of symbols that highlight the strengths and history of the department itself. Once an officer receives a challenge coin upon joining the force, he or she is expected to carry it on their person at all times. Traditionally, this means carrying it as they would any other coin since altering the coins to make them easier to carry (such as drilling a hole in them or attaching them to a pin) is seen as devaluing the coin in terms of its ability to allow the holder to use it to “challenge” others.

If an officer carrying a challenge coin pulls their coin out at a bar and taps it on the table, the person being “challenged” then has thirty seconds to pull out their own challenge coin. If they fail to do so, they are expected to buy a drink for the challenging officer. In this way, challenge coins help officers identify other members of the police force in a social and entertaining way. This helps build a sense of camaraderie which helps to keep the police “family” as close knit as possible.

challenge coins for police

Police agencies will usually have custom challenge coins made to give out to their members. Special coins can be designed to give out only to certain members, perhaps members who have achieved certain goals or who experienced certain challenges together. If an officer is lost in the line of duty, custom challenge coins can be created by their family or their department and given to other officers in their memory. Challenge coins can also be handed down to children and other family members, creating a sense of history and pride that one’s family has served the public in the police force. They are sure to be treasured memories for generations to come.

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Displaying Your Military Coins

challenge coins displaysWhether you are the recipient of well-earned military coins or an ardent collector of them, there are a variety of attractive ways to commemorate your honored keepsakes and you will find many sites devoted to showing you how. Rather than leaving your treasured coins tucked away in a box, you can proudly set them upon a desktop, mantle, or mounted on a wall, secure in a handsome display where they will serve as reminders of dedication, courage and valor and be a continued source of inspiration. You may also choose to have your display engraved with your name, title, and rank. Display cases come in all styles, sizes, shapes, and materials, designed with the protection of your prized cache in mind.

There are handsome shelf and floor displays guaranteed to be a worthy enhancement for your collection. A pyramid display can mount many coins individually, each on their own easel. And if you prefer to showcase extra special coins singly, there are some very stylish models for those as well. Rotating wood display models, for either a single coin or several, allow both sides of the coin to be seen, as will a uniquely designed metal tree. A glass dome display with a rotating base is also popular. Models of this type also are available for one coin or many. If you wish instead to have only certain coins out at different times while keeping your entire collection together, beautifully carved wood models allow you to mount some on top while placing others below in a drawer for a future date. Some challenge coin displays offer a tiered rack option for all your coins at once. And for the frequent traveler who cannot part with his collection, a hand held portable display case will allow for easy transport while keeping each valued coin secure in its special place. Ranging from the elegant to the simple to the custom made and innovative, whether your fancy is wood, metal, or crystal, there is a suitable display to meet the needs of every collector and for all to admire.

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Fire Fighter Challenge Coins

Fire Fighter EMS Challenge CoinsThe challenge coin is a unique and captivating award issued to servicemen, such as fire fighters and military personnel. For fire fighters, the challenge coin represents pride and honor for a past accomplishment or heroic endeavor.

The challenge coin is not only a way to show gratitude for impressive feats – it is a way to interact with others through a simple challenge. The challenge is meant to create camaraderie and boost morale; it is a friendly and good-natured tradition shared among unit members.

To challenge a fellow coin bearer, one must simply take their coin and set it or tap it repeatedly on the bar, table, or whatever surface is available. The person or group being challenged must either produce their own coin(s) or buy the challenger a round of drinks. If the challenge individuals do have their coin(s), though, then the person who made the challenge must buy a round of drinks.

A fire fighter may pose a challenge to another fire fighter at any given moment – even, as it has been joked about, in the shower. Many men and women carry their challenge coins with them at all times, but some keep theirs home in a decorative display case, lending themselves to be the victims of challenges.

Typically, challenge coins are heavy and ornate; they are not the kind of award that is easily overlooked. Custom challenge coins are a fantastic way to encourage unity and pride amongst the members of a group or organization. They are high-quality, artistic pieces that can be treasured for years to come, passed on from generation to generation.

Military coins are the most recognized kind of challenge coin, but they can be awarded to many different individuals who serve and protect civilians. They are highly symbolic and meaningful pieces that are cherished by the few who earn them.

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Collecting Challenge Coins is a Worldwide Craze You Can Join

Even if you’re not part of a group that awards their own challenge coins, you can be part of this exciting, world-wide phenomenon by beginning a collection of military coins, also known as challenge coins. There are so many types of challenge coins that you can’t collect them all. You’ll need to narrow your collection down to some category that interests you.

Your collection can be based on anything you like. Perhaps your father served in the U.S. military in Vietnam. Maybe you want to collect military challenge coins from that era. Maybe you want to collect only coins from one branch of the military, like the Air Force, regardless of era. You might collect challenge coins from motorcycle clubs or sports teams.

Maybe you’re from a family with a history of police service. You could seek out custom challenge coins from different police forces. Or you might collect firefighter challenge coins from the Texas Rangers, or even coins that were minted to commemorate space missions by NASA.

That’s not the only way to collect coins. You can go for the gold and only buy coins minted from 24K gold. Coins minted from .999 percent pure silver make a beautiful investment too. If you collect challenge coins made from precious metals, your collection will increase in value with time. And they’re easy to liquidate if you need to turn them back into cash.

Maybe you think the latest 5-color or 3-D printing processes looks awesome, so you collect 3-D challenge coins from around the world. You can probably find 3-D challenge coins from films like Avatar or Star Wars. You might like soccer. You could look for challenge coins from previous World Cup or different championships.

If all else fails, make your own coins and sell them. Begin your collection by creating coins that mean something to you. Maybe you want to honor American frontiersmen or European composers or famous women writers. Design your coins, have them minted and trade them with others. If you make nice enough coins, they’ll sell themselves. If you use precious metals, they’ll have immediate, lasting value that can be determined by checking current spot prices on the commodities market.

Collecting challenge coins is a fun, exciting hobby. It’s a good way to invest your money and build a collection of coins that you enjoy.

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Some Facts About Challenge Coins

Challenge coins are coins that display the insignia of an organization on them, often along with other decorative or emblematic engraving or imprinting. They are usually used by military organizations. Though their origins are debated, they probably began in the United States Army Air Service – the World War 1 military air force, which predated the current US air force.

The purpose of challenge coins is multiple. First of all, they are used as a kind of semi-formal identification system for the organization in question. The holder may be “challenged” to prove membership in the organization. Producing the challenge coin, they have thus met this challenge. Though they do serve this function, it is not in a strictly official capacity. It is more along the lines of a traditional practice similar to passwords, group signs, or answers to secret questions.

There is even a kind of drinking game associated with challenge coins. The challenge act itself often occurs in military bars or involves buying rounds of drinks at bars later. The way it generally works is that a holder of a challenge coin slaps the coin down on the bar, taps it repeatedly, or shows it in some way, and the challenged individual along with the rest of the coin holders present must immediately produce their coins in response. Anyone without his coin is obliged to buy drinks for the challenger and all the other coin holders. However if everyone present does have and show the coin, the challenger himself must buy the round of drinks for all.

Thus a primary purpose of challenge coins is to boost morale. The coins themselves are attractive and are geared toward giving the holder of the coin a sense of belonging and pride. The semi-formal nature of the practice of showing the coins takes them from the realm of technical officialdom and into the realm of organizational pride and social recognition.

Related to this is the use of challenge coins as medals or awards. Often in the military they are awarded to military personnel for acts of courage, strategy, or fortitude that are not large enough to qualify for receiving actual military medals. When they are used by other types of organizations such as, say, fire departments, they serve much the same function, being awarded for moderate examples of outstanding service.

Custom challenge coins are coins that are custom made for specific organizations. These organizations may range from military units to many others – local social organizations, fraternities, sororities, police units, corporations, Boy Scout troops, and so on. Custom challenge coins have steadily grown in popularity over the years and are used more and more. Sometimes an organization will even have custom challenge coins made for a temporary special event.

Challenge coins are an American tradition and a fun and attractive way to show organizational or team spirit.

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Highly Collectible Challenge Coins

Swiftly becoming a collectable item with both military and civilian memorabilia enthusiasts, the hobby of buying, selling, and trading challenge coins is on the increase in the United States and abroad. Collector’s groups, associations, and forums can be found on the internet exploring every possible topic within this realm of collecting. The savvy collector can keep abreast of the most current news by frequently watching for updates in this hobby.

What started as a military tradition to boost morale, pride, and cohesion within a unit, custom challenge coins are now used by everything from fire departments to symphony orchestras for the same reasons. Businesses reward employees and create a community of prideful workers by delivering elegantly designed challenge coins to them. Fraternities, sports teams, motorcycle clubs and more use the coins as a symbol of pride in membership.

Finding and collecting challenge coins on the market is simple with the help of the internet. Many companies exist that sell current coins and create custom designed coins. Online auctions have thousands of coins up for auction or ready to purchase. Something to consider when buying challenge coins is the goal you have as a collector. Although there are some valuable coins, generally those that were actually awarded to a member of a group, most challenge coins can be purchased for just a few dollars. These are more than likely not the original coins given to military units, Rather, they are similar coins that have been mass-produced for sale. Because these coins are not minted by nations, there are often difficulties knowing if the coin is an original or later copy.

Using an online database of coins can help clear up some of the confusion. At least one expanding database of custom challenge coins exists that is attempting to catalog every coin ever produced along with accompanying information. It is a wonderful place for beginners to browse, getting an idea of what coins exist, when they were created, and what they commemorate.

Manufacturers of challenge coins are numerous, offering engraved, embossed, and enameled coins. In only a few weeks a design can be created and coins minted. Many advanced hobbyists enjoy having custom challenge coins created to share with family, friends, and trading partners. Exciting original designs can easily be sold at auction online.

With the increasing popularity of collecting custom challenge coins, accessories are now offered. Presentation cases, holders, and display units can all be purchased. Because the coins were historically kept intact, not drilled and worn as jewelry, cases or holders worn around the neck with the coin safely inside are another available accessory.

Whether for pure enjoyment or as an investment, collecting custom challenge coins is a rewarding hobby that combines history, pride, and art.

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Air Force Challenge Coins

Air Force Challenge CoinsChallenge coin collecting is a growing hobby today because people have discovered unlimited resources via the internet and beyond. You can shop online, at auctions, garage sales, yard sales, flea markets, and even thrift shops. There are many different ways to grow your collection. If you love to collect challenge coins, you may find that there are countless groups and branches of the military that use these challenge coins to give to each participant in a particular group.

Military challenge coins are harder to find than other branches because the soldiers held on to them once they were issued. This is mainly due to military challenge coins presented once a battle had been fought or after an important task had been accomplished. The United States Air Force challenge coins are a good place to start with any challenge coin collection because they have so much to offer.

If you want to collect United States Air Force challenge coins, you want to collect the ones from the 21st Mission Support Squadron. The unit also provides other services such as supplying orderlies to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) at Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. This particular squadron had several responsibilities that included education, supporting the family, information management, and Airman Leadership School. The name of the unit is right on the front of the challenge coin so you will know exactly where the coin came from.

The United States Armed Forces have made popular challenge coins that you can seek out, admire, keep in your pocket, or start a collection. These coins are not only easy to carry in your pocket but they are a part of military heritage as we know it today.

Today, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy will receive their challenge coins upon graduation. If a soldier is killed in the line of duty, these challenge coins are then given to the widow so she or he can always remember their part in the services.

When a serviceman completes basic training he also receives a challenge coin. It may be blank on one side, or display his rank or branch of service.

Today, challenge coins are made from different types of metals that range from the original bronze to silver.

The United States Air Force offers a beautiful collection of challenge coins that are given to men and women who prove themselves by completing a significant task, graduation, or performing beyond their regular duties. Once you find a USAF coin, you will want to seek out others to start and grow your collection.

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Challenge Coins for All Groups

Collecting challenge coins is a popular pastime these days. Also known as Military coins, their purpose has evolved beyond the original significance of proving the bearer’s identity. Instead, their focus has moved towards loyalty and respect. Participating in challenges with these military coins is taken very seriously and defacing them in any way will cancel them. This reflects the grave responsibility of those who carry challenge coins.

The importance of challenge coins today lies behind the pride of having them. The coins reflect the affiliation or patronage of the organization minted on the coin, whether it be military or civilian. They are to be kept on the body at all times and cannot be defaced in any way. The suggested means of carrying these coins is in a pouch secured on a chain around the neck. It is important they not be worn in a way that would jeopardize the security of possessing the coin.

In today’s military world, the tradition of the challenge associated with military coins is used to ensure that unit members have their coins on their persons. Challenges can be made at any time and consist of the challenger placing his or her coin on the table. Continuously tapping the coin on the table can also be a means of starting the challenge. All challenged are expected to immediately produce their coins representing their organization. Those who fail to do this will be expected to buy a round of drinks for the group.

Military commanders make use of their challenge coins in other ways. Improving morale is a key function in challenges as well as honoring members for their service. These qualities are met through challenges and rewards for hard work, dedication and other shows of respect. The rewards are challenge coins that reflect the assignment, giving the recipient a true feeling of accomplishment.

The popularity of challenge coins has also spread into the civilian world in such areas as law enforcement and athletics. A variety of hobby clubs are now enjoying the collection of these small badges symbolic of belonging. Schools and universities have also joined up with utilizing the challenge and reward systems for which these coins are so famous. Because of the standards these coins represent, receiving them for jobs well done is an honor across the board, no matter the area represented.


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Navy Challenge Coins Popular at Sea

Navy Challenge Coins

The commemorative challenge coin for the USS Alabama. This is just one of the many Navy challenge coins being collected today.

In recognition of work well done and dedication to duty, nothing is more coveted to the service men and women protecting the world’s oceans than U.S. Navy challenge coins. Made of various medals and embossed with the insignia of the individual’s, specialized unit or ship, challenge coins are prized keepsakes. The commanding officers, who most often present them, also recognized them as excellent morale boosters.

According to popular legend, military challenge coins originated during World War I when a downed pilot escaped from his German captors, donned civilian clothes, and made his way back to allied lines only to be “challenged” by French forces who threatened to execute him. The pilot, so the story goes, was saved when his squadron’s insignia, emblazoned on a medallion he wore around his neck, was recognized by one of the French soldiers.

It was decades, however, before the modern military services began presenting challenge coins on a regular basis. In fact, they became popular enough during the Vietnam conflict that a modified history of challenge coins states they originated with the Special Forces during that war. While Airborne units and Rangers followed in the tradition, it was not until the First Gulf War (1990-1991) that military challenge coins became the most popular.

U.S Navy challenge coins have more than kept pace with the custom and, according to some collectors of military challenge coins, lead the way in the number of them. One of the Navy’s first challenge coins was minted in1998 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville (FL). In commemoration of that station’s 60th anniversary, it featured the World War II logo of that station and was presented to all employees. One of the Navy’s latest challenge coins was minted in 2009 and honored the 1919 opening of NAS Lakehurst (NJ) and its transition to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

In keeping with their history, military challenge coins continue to challenge, but in a manner much less serious than that encountered by that brave World War I airman. Today, the challenge most often concerns the drinks bought by the hapless serviceman who, when “challenged,” does not present his/her unit coin. In order not to be caught short in such circumstances, challenge coins must be carried at all times.

As military challenge coins have prospered within the separate services, so have they prospered as collectibles. Today, military challenge coins can be purchased at relatively modest prices from traditional coin dealers, at auctions, and through a number of internet sources. There are several choices within the overall field, but whatever the choice, the true value of military challenge coins lies deep within the pride of and dedication to the unit and the service men and women they represent.

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