Military Challenge Coins and their significance to Soldiers

As long as humans have existed, so too has conflict. With those who participate in these often horrific yet honorable situations, sometimes a momento is made as a reward for surviving the ordeal. Into today’s age the most common one to find are known as military challenge coins. As popular as these things are there is not a true agreement as to when these became a widely spread thing.Some stories place their origin back in the roman empire in which they were awarded to soldiers with outstanding achievements. While similar to challenge coins, the renaissance period had portrait coins which are awarded to notable individuals. The story that most consider to be the origin due to its fame is the story of the world war 1 soldier who only survived due to having his coin as proof that he was not a traitor. The story involves a pilot whose plane goes down and he is stuck behind enemy lines. After eventually getting captured and stipped of everything but his challenge coin, he was imprisoned. Eventually finding a way to escape, he quickly hid amoughts the civilians managing to avoid the watchful eyes of the Germans and crossed over no man’s land. Finding himself in french territory yet not knowing the language of the french, proved difficult as the french thought him to secretly be a german.

Having had almost everything taken from him, he was able to use his challenge coin to show that he was american and lucky for him at least one of the french soldiers recognized it. While military challenge coins still exist they have branched out into civilian life as well. Certain companies have begun handing out challenge coins that display the logo of the company to employees as they do leave a fairly lasting impression. Due to cost efficiency it is still more common to use business cards as they are significantly cheaper as well as easier to carry. However in the military both of these cons can be seen as pros due to the price meaning greater value, and carrying one on someone’s person is supposed to be difficult to to deal with anyways, for it is a sign of respect for what the military challenge coin represents. Those who carry the military challenge coins do recognize that it can be difficult to always carry it on one’s person at all times and thus have devised games that involve the coin.

The main game is called a coin check, in which one person challenges another to show their coin, if the person fails to show their coin they must buy a drink for the one who challenged them, however if they are able to provide their coin the challenger must buy a drink for whom they just doubted. While the coin can take on many different shapes and sizes the purpose is almost always the same, to show respect to a group that a person onced or still does belong to. As long as conflict continues to happen, so too will the tradition of military challenge coins. 


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