Government Challenge Coins


Challenge Coins are used by organizations outside the Military to include the FBI, CIA, and DEA.

Government challenge coins are a unique aspect of each governmental organization that brings traditions and norms to these organizations that can’t be found anywhere else. Military challenge coins are usually the most common ones out there, but these challenge coins have made their way into many of the governmental organizations. These coins don’t seem much more then just an organizational identification item but there is much more to them, especially when it comes to the military challenge coins.

To understand what a challenge coin is, there needs to be an understanding of their origins. They supposedly started in World War I when a group of pilots in the United States Army Air Service decided to make a coin for the group. When a pilot out of that group was shot down in enemy territory, he was stripped of all identification except for that coin. After escaping the Germans, he made his way into French territory where he was assumed to be a German saboteur and scheduled him for execution. When he showed the French his coin, they were able to identify him as American and get him back to his unit.

ATF Challenge CoinsWhile that may have been the real origins of the challenge coin, it wasn’t until Vietnam that they were started to be used widely in the military. These military challenge coins started when troops wanted to keep a kind of lucky charm. These charms started out as smalls arms munitions but, due to these charms becoming larger and much more dangerous to just be carried around, commanders started to issue these challenge coins out to their units. This is where the tradition of a whole unit having their own unique challenge coin.

Now these challenge coins have a bit more practical use then just as a sort of identification with a particular unit. Traditions eventually started to pop up over time which actually warranted callings these things challenge coins. When a group of military men have down time, they tend to go drinking. A member of a unit is supposed to keep their coin on them at all times and if they don’t have it on them they put themselves at risk of being susceptible to a challenge. These challenges are issued by those in the same unit and it’s basically a check to see if everyone has their coin on them. If a person does not, then they are up for buying the next round of drinks. If everybody does have their challenge coin, then the challenger is forced to buy the next round.

Military challenge coins have a long tradition of use and a robust history. What they are truly meant for is to create cohesion within a unit, giving each member that special identification to a particular unit. While challenge coins have become more collectors’ items then anything else lately, the traditions associated with them will never change.