Challenge coins are popularly known as awards given to military or police officers who have done outstanding service to the public that deserves to be recognized. These awards come in the form of coins or medals the size of a regular coin in the US, but with additional design and artwork. One of the most notable elements of such a medallion is the insignia or emblem of the organization that produced it.
Sometimes called signature coins, challenge coins are not exclusive to the military or police forces. Here are four interesting things you should know:
1)They are not exclusive to the military.
The use of such coins may have originated from the military, but they are not the only ones who use it. Contrary to popular belief, challenge coin collecting is actually a popular pastime among communities outside of the military. Public service organizations, such as the Fire Department and others, reward volunteers with honorary medallions to recognize their courage, leadership and willingness to serve. Private corporations have their own signature coins that they give to their employees. These coins are often engraved with the logos of these companies to celebrate the success of their brands.
2)Originally, they were actually used when being challenged.
Challenge coins got their name from a tradition in the military where a challenger would challenge someone by showing them his challenge coin. If the challenged party was not able to show his challenge coin to the challenger, he must buy him a round of drinks. If the challenged party has his challenge coin on his person, however, then the challenger is the one who buys a round of drinks to the challenged party.
This act of challenging, known as “Coin Check”, is to ensure that soldiers are carrying their designated unit’s coins at all times. This was helpful during times of war, when soldiers often got lost in unfamiliar territory and there was no way of confirming their identity. Their coins helped their allies in identifying them, thus saving their lives.
3)A film director once distributed coins to U.S. Air Force personnel.
Jon Favreau said in an audio commentary that he gave Iron Man 2 coins to personnel of the U.S. Air Force as a sign of appreciation for their help during the production of the Iron Man movies, which was filmed on location at Edwards Air Force Base. Not only did these guys got featured in a movie, they even got a medal for it. Just how lucky could they be?
This practice of giving custom coins as a token of gratitude is not uncommon. Another example is when Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan gave the show’s crew a different challenge coin for every new season.
4)There are many sizes and builds of coins for many different purposes.
While the traditional military challenge coin only has a specific size, modern challenge coins now exist in varying sizes and builds to accommodate the many different purposes and occasions where these coins are used.
For instance, if you want a coin to keep in your pocket, you can get the 1.5”, 1.75” or 2” variations. But if you want something more visible that you can display to relatives during family reunions, there are sizes as big as 4.5” that fit your need.
As for the builds of coins, there are two: zinc-alloy castings and die struck bronze. Zinc-alloy castings are cheaper, but if you want superior quality and can shell out the extra bucks, then the die struck bronze is for you.
Challenge coins are definitely getting more common not just in the military but also among civilians. And why not? Challenge coin collecting is an inexpensive hobby that could give you a great sense of accomplishment for an inexpensive price.
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