Despite the popularity of challenge coins, people are still confused as to what purpose these coins actually serve. This question can only be answered by delving deep into the military tradition of giving awards to members who have shown exemplary behavior during a battle.
Custom military coins were given out as awards in the battlefield normally right after winning a battle. This tradition is still ongoing though in some cases, the soldiers have to wait until they get home from battle in order to receive their special coins. This tradition of giving away coins to soldiers who survived a war has slowly seeped into public consciousness.
Some of the most well-known groups or personalities who commission their own customized coins include:
1. The US President and Vice-president
2. The Secret Service
3. The White House Military Aides
4. The Coast Guard
5. Various Police Departments
6. Various Football Teams
Privately-owned companies like Coca-Cola, Under Armour, and many others are also known to release special challenge coins every once in a while. The release of these coins often coincide with a special event that the company often holds a year-long celebration for, such as anniversaries and the like.
Custom military coins have also evolved and became part of the Boys Scouts. Each scout often receives a special coin for an achievement or as a special citation. This tradition often makes it more exciting for the scouts to do the challenges that scout masters present them with.
The shape and size of custom military coins have also changed throughout the years. In the past, military coins used to come in the traditionally-rounded shape of normal currency coins. These days, it is quite common to see hexagonal, triangular, diamond-edged or any other oddly-shaped challenge coin.
Even the design of the coins changed as well. The development of modern technological ways of printing has given way to more intricate and colorful challenge coin designs. As a matter of fact, the design does not only have to be the usual flat engraving.
Organizations that want to own customized challenge coins can also request for 3D designs to make the coins look more interesting. Another option is to have the coins engraved in translucent enamel and then covered with an epoxy coating that will protect it from harsh handling.
Another aspect of custom military coins that has experienced a drastic change is the type and style of the metal used. Historically, challenge coins used to be made out of silver, gold, or bronze. Some of the more popular metal styles today include:
1. Published Gold
2. Antique Gold
3. Published or Antique Silver
4. Black Nickel
5. Dual-tone metal
The resources used for commissioning these coins normally came straight out of the officer’s pockets. Nowadays, organizations and even some branches of the military reserve a part of their monthly budget for commissioning special company tokens such as challenge coins and the like.
This process may have removed part of the mystery of custom military coins, yet it has also served to make people more aware of the benefits of being loyal to an organization. This also means that the process of “coin check” is no longer just enjoyed by servicemen.
Coin check is believed to have originated from the soldiers who served during the Second World War. Whenever a group from the same company or unit went into a bar, one of them would challenge the others to show their coins. The person who does not have a coin to present would then have to pay for the next round of drinks.
If everyone who were issued the challenge were able to present their coins, then the person who gave the challenge would then have to pay up. This tradition has been adopted by many of the non-military organizations who have customized challenge coins, which often makes drinking sessions more exciting.