What Are the Origins of the Challenge Coin and What Does It Represent?

The history of the challenge coin is packed with a little more excitement than you might imagine. There’s a good reason that challenge coins are used in boot camp groups all the way up to the oval office.

The history of the coin digs into the roots of what it means to be part of a team. We’re going to look at the origins of military challenge coins today, giving you some insight into why they’re such an important part of the culture.

Let’s get started.

The Tradition of The Challenge Coin

The story begins sometime in the early days of World War I. Squadrons were pieced together back then, pulling individuals from all ranks of society to be parts of unified groups.

Things have changed a lot since then. People in different parts of society were more separated than they are now. America was just as diverse as ever, but the separation was a lot starker.

In an effort to unite his squadron, one man thought it would be a good idea to purchase unique medallions for the men in his Air Force squadron. It was a small group of maybe ten or twenty individuals.

The men were proud of the coins, showing them to everyone they could.

Shot Down in Europe

Fast forward a number of months and the men are stationed in France, defending against Germany. One of the men in the squadron was shot down, landing deep behind enemy lines.

He was taken captive by The Germans. Fortunately for him, the building he was in was destroyed, leaving him alive and able to escape. He dressed up in German clothing, walking back toward French territory.

He had to cross No-man’s-land, which is something that’s not easy to do. Upon crossing, though, again, he was taken captive. He was an English-speaking man dressed in German uniform, walking into France.

He tried to explain himself, but there was very little he could do to make his point. What could he do that would prove his identity other than having an American soldier verify him?

He was scheduled to get killed, but the French men were taking their time trying to decide whether or not he was American. As that was happening, a man was going through the American’s possessions.

He came across a gold coin, one that had a particular emblem on it. He had spoken with another American from the same squadron and knew that these coins were one of a kind. The man came to the American’s rescue, explaining the significance of the coin and the fact that it proved who he was.

As a result of this stroke of luck, word spread like wildfire. Challenge coins have been used throughout military life ever since. You can even make your own custom coins by working with businesses offering custom metal products.

Want to Learn More About Challenge Coins?

There’s a lot more to learn about challenge coin etiquette. A lot has changed since their invention, and you can use military challenge coins in a lot of personal and business applications.

Explore our site for more insights into this deep and fascinating culture.