What is a challenge coin?


The military has a long-standing tradition of using custom challenge coins to commemorate special occasions and reward exceptional actions. Military challenge coin initially keeps by members of the armed forces, law enforcement officers, and so on. They are award to notable people like military personnel, veterans, or the ones who contributed to the large majority.

In this article, we uncover these peculiar coins, their history, differences (if any), and the different types available out there.

But first things first!

5 Interesting Facts About challenge coins / Commemorative Coins

  • The initial military challenge coins were awarded to warriors for valor in the Roman Army.
  • On some occasions, people consider the custom made coins as a sign of brotherhood and respect
  • Every coin is engraved with a special logo or motto that commemorates a special occasion or moment.
  • Challenge coins are valuable collector items that vary in value. Awarding a challenge coin through a secret handshake is a famous recruiting tool

With that in mind, Let’s dive right in.

What are Challenge Coins?

A challenge coin is a small medallion that bears the motto, logo, or insignia of an organization/ society that they represent. These coins are often awarded to members of the organization/society to enhance morale, acknowledge their service, or promote its brand.

Custom coins are typically has a diameter of 1.5 inches, 1.75inches, and 2inches. The coin designs vary in different shapes and sizes like pentagon, shields, arrowheads, or dog tags.

The main raw materials of most popular coins are a zinc alloy and brass in gold or silver finishing.

Regarding the edges, there are several options available:

  • Flat wave cut edge
  • Flat cut edge
  • Oblique line edge
  • Rope cut edge
challenge coins edges options

Most time, challenge coin display in challenge coin holder/capsules.

Custom made coins are popular in numerous organizations, including firefighters, marine corps, police, FBI, air force, and corporations, to recognize someone’s outstanding efforts or contributions to the organization or society.

With that in mind, You are probably wondering Is there a difference between personalized Challenge coins and commemorative coins?

Challenge coins are also referred by many as commemorative coins in some areas, even though there exists a minor difference between them. The two terms used interchangeably in somewhat similar circumstances for an award.

Nowadays, commemorative coins feature various cultural attributes, and they can be presented both on military and other occasions.

History of Challenge Coins

The origin of the tradition of challenge coins is largely uncertain with different sources giving opinions on their history.

Coins and military service go a long way back than our current modern age. Some of the earliest known occasions where soldiers received commemorative coins date back to ancient Rome. Roman empire soldiers received coins after a war to commemorate their men of valor and recognize their individual achievements.

During the Renaissance period, challenge coins were known as portrait medals. It uses to commemorate particular events and occasions that involved nobles, royals, and other high-ranking individuals.

One popular story illustrates that challenge coins started from the US Army during the First World War (1914-1919). According to this story, the coins were as awards to American volunteers who fought in the war.

Most of the world’s commemorative coins date back to the 1960s although earlier versions date back to earlier dates. Later, various world governments began circulating commemorative coins with regular currency. For example, the Soviet Union issued a challenge coin to commemorate their victory in the Second World War.

In a word, the history of challenge coins remains uncertain and the period varies depending on the jurisdiction or country.


Custom Coins Categories :

Military Challenge Coins

Custom military coins are mainly classified in

  • Navy challenge coins
  • Marine corps challenge coin
  • Army challenge coins
  • Airforce challenge coins
  • Coast guard challenge coins
military challenge coins-perfectcraftsgifts

They incorporate the tradition, history, and customs of the military services. More than simple mementos, they are a strong symbol of service to the country and the ultimate sacrifice thus. In the US, for instance, officers award challenge coins to soldiers as an appreciation for a successful deployment, mission or training.

Usually, the military challenge coin is in round shapes, display with challenge coin holders. Anyway, challenge coin designs are custom, they can be with wave cut or crosscut. These coins carry the unit insignia, important dates, special words, and colors that match the regimental colors.

Award Coins

Award coin serves awards both in formal and informal occasions e.g. family gatherings. Their designs are with the insignia of the unit awarding it, the special date and the occasion too when award. In America, people use them to commemorate special occasions with friends, families, and colleagues.

An award coin, award by a father to his son for exceptional play during a football game. In short, award coins are challenge coins with less formal formalities than military or law enforcement challenge coins.

award coins

Police Challenge Coins

The Police Forces are one of the first units outside the military to recognize the value of the challenge coins. Police coins usually use for their specific disciplines such as SWAT Teams. Detectives, bomb disposal, and major crime units. These coins usually present for their long-service, promotions, accomplishments, and achievements.

police coins

Most police departments across the world inherited the tradition from the military, and have become a part of their activities. Senior police officers issue challenge coins to colleagues who show outstanding service to the force as a sign of appreciation. Officers awarded with challenge coins receive respect from their colleagues and often help to tackle major cases in the department.

Firefighter challenge coins

Firefighting coins are exclusively awards to fire-fighters and other officers in the fire department. Like the police, fire-fighters inherited the tradition from the military to honor firefighters for their service and outstanding efforts. Fire-fighters receive the coins from high-ranking officers for successful rescue missions, putting out wildfires, and successful training sessions.

firefighter challenge coins

Presidential Challenge Coins

All Presidents have released coin starting with President Bill Clinton, which marks their inauguration and their administration. Moreover, the presidents present the coins to different people, including foreign guests, members of the military on some special occasions, and significant events. You can buy some president coins from the white house gift shop. But presidential coins presented during military handshakes are the most unique and rarest form of the challenge coins.

presidential obama coins

Employee Recognition Challenge Coin

Employee recognition coins are awards to employees in an organization for making progress and completing milestones in the office. Awards coins have many positive effects on the morale of employees, which led to its popularity. The survey showed that 7 out of 10 employees received recognition coins, which reflected their happiness, appreciation, and satisfaction with their jobs.

Many employers award their employees with commemorating coins for major project completion, the anniversary of their hiring date, or raise, etc.

recognition coin

Nowadays, custom made coins are no longer uncommon items that limit to military service. Some civic organizations such as the boy scouts and Lions club also have their own challenge coin design. They give coins to partners and stakeholders in recognition of their relationship and goodwill. Challenge coins have become highly collectible, long-lasting items to show allegiance and respect on any occasion.

You maybe want to know How challenge coins made

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