Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The History of Challenge Coins

The History Of Challenge Coins

The phenomenon of challenge coins particularly rose in popularity in the last couple of decades. Coins themselves are often associated with the military and it is widely known that these are given to the individuals who presented outstanding courage and valor while on service.

Therefore, having a challenge coin represents a great honor and in a certain way shows an individual’s affiliation with the certain organization.

But, they are not exclusively associated with the Army. Nowadays, challenge coins are also finding their use outside the military. Many non-military organizations (and not only the police departments) have adopted the practice of presenting coins to members that earned them somehow.

So today we have proud owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles wearing their own challenge coins as a way of showing affiliation to the club, or we have coins of NASCAR drivers that are predominantly used as collectibles by NASCAR fans for example.

It’s pretty easy and simple to make your very own challenge coins with a number of companies offering services of making beautiful custom challenge coins today. Embleholics is one such company for example.

And with all the buzz surrounding this whole coins madness, one questions will always linger:

When and where challenge coins originated?


Origins of Challenge Coins  
It is believed that practice of giving coins to people who showed outstanding performance of duty dates back to the Roman Empire. The Emperor used to give these to the soldiers as a form of payment. Because the coins themselves had the insignia of the Empire engraved on them, soldiers often decided to keep these to themselves rather than spend it on food and necessities.

But perhaps most common story of challenge coin origins is the one associated with the US stepping into the World War I. Namely, before the US aircrafts took off to Europe, one of the flight lieutenants ordered for coins to be made in bronze with the US Army flight squadron emblem engraved on it, and gave coins to every member of the unit.

When one of the planes was gunned down by the Germans, American pilot was captured and stripped of his possessions. He was held captive behind enemy lines but somehow managed to escape and made it to the other side of the battle front where French troops were holding ground.

Because he had no ID on himself and because of his funny accent, the French thought that he was a German spy so they ordered for him to be executed. Luckily enough, a coin he kept in his leather bag saved his life in the end as the French suspected he was an American after all. That gave him just enough time to contact headquarters and to prove his identity.  

Although this story may sound like a fairy tale or story from some book that could be exciting to your child maybe, it pretty much pinpoints the significance of challenge coins. Those who have a challenge coin or collect them, cherish them with great pride. They use every situation possible to acknowledge that they are proud owners of one such coin, just like an airborne lieutenant did years ago during the World War. 

About the Author
Hellen McAdams is a blogger at Bicycle On Fire and a writer that loves to tackle all topics related to every day life of military professionals and their families. If you have any comments or questions, shoot her a question at @hellen_mcadams.




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