What is a Challenge Coin? And 7 Other Traditions and Decorations Service Members Treasure

In Lifestyle | |

If you have ever heard the term “challenge coin” and wondered what it means, what they are, or what the coins signify, this article is for you. Challenge coins are specially designed coins that are given to someone as a means of identifying them with a particular organization. In a military setting, for example, they are often presented to commemorate a special achievement or for going above and beyond the call of duty and are handed off to a soldier from a unit commander during a military ceremony. In this article, we will take a closer look at the design and what they represent.

For those who may not have seen a challenge coin personally, they are small in diameter, made of metal, and not too much a quarter or half-dollar, to give you a frame of reference. Also, they are each uniquely designed, which makes identifying the organization they belong to a much easier process. The unique design is often characterized by a specific emblem or insignia that is etched into the coin and, in some cases, a motto. Beyond that, the coins can also be painted. Although they are typically round, special shapes and alternates designs can be requested. It is also worth noting the organizations that interested in these coins have their say when it comes to types of metals used in the manufacturing of them, including brass, bronze, and much more. For organizations interested in some that denote opulence, the coins can also be manufactured in 24-carat gold.


While commonly associated with the military, challenge coins are also awarded to first responders and private organization, but it is worth noting that they have a long-standing tradition with all branches of the United States Army. In addition to being used during military ceremonies, they are routinely given to soldiers as a means of boosting morale and promoting unity. The same holds true for civilian groups as they often award challenge coins in recognition of accomplishments in business and as a way to promote unity. They are also given to first responders who have displayed supreme acts of heroism in the face of tragedy. All of that aside, the remainder of this article will take a closer look at how challenge coins are used to award, acknowledge, and recognize excellence throughout various organizations.


Along with other efforts, corporations routinely use challenge coins as a means of branding, often depicting a company logo on the coins. In fact, many companies have begun using them in the same manner that they would with business cards, meaning they’re handing them out a company functions, sales event, and even trade shows. From a business standpoint, this makes sense as challenge coins are far more memorable than traditional business cards. Challenge coins are also given to high performing employees who excel in their roles with the company, which goes a long way towards improving a company’s bottom line. Studies have shown that employees who feel valued and appreciated in the workplace are willing to harder, which, in turn, drives profits and rewards shareholders. That said, challenge coins are a logical choice for any major corporation looking to incentivize their employees.


When it comes to “challenge coins,” many schools are taking a page from the playbook of major corporations, which is to say they’re using them as a branding strategy. In fact, many schools have added their school’s mascot to the coins and have made it point to hand them out at sporting and community events.


Getting back to challenge coin and their connection with the military, the coins are commonly used to denote a soldier’s connection with a particular unit or in recognition of a specific tour of duty they served on. In fact, in the early days of the military, challenge coins were used as part of their security detail. What does this mean, exactly? Well, they were used by soldiers as a way of proving their loyalty to their branch of the military and to identify them with a specific branch of the military.


One of the hardest parts about leaving the military has to be saying goodbye to the friends you’ve made. Challenge coins allow veterans and active-duty military members to stay in contact with one another. In fact, the coins have really resonated with veterans as it is not uncommon for them to proudly display the coins that signify the missions they served on and the units that they served in. Beyond that, challenge coins have been known to use to pay tribute to a variety of memorable moments like the October wildfires that took place in Sonoma County where firefighters, law enforcement, and paramedics who provided their services to vanquish the county’s firestorm.


With all this talk of challenge coins being a great way to recognize achievements and to make connections, you’re probably wondering how to go about purchasing them for your organization. If so, you will have to know that there are a number of online and retail merchants that carry them. As previously noted, they are fully customizable and sold at varying price points to accommodate nearly any budget. It is important, however, to buy them from a reputable supplier as there are fake challenge coins in the marketplace. If you’re in the market for an authentic challenge coin issued by the U.S. military, then you want to make sure you are getting what you’ve made for. A great way to tell that a military challenge coin is real is to look for those that have “presented by the commander” or “for excellence” imprinted on them. Military challenge coins that do not have these imprints are either fake or being sold as souvenirs. Nonetheless, there are plenty to choose from if you’re in the market for them.