There is a tradition of giving away military coins in the military as a gift of respect, honour, loyalty, and gratitude. The origin of these coins is still unknown. However, there are many noted legends dating these coins as far as the time of the World War I. Whether these stories are true or not are still a mystery.
There are a lot of names given to military coins: squadron’s coins, challenge coins, unit coins, unit challenge coins, commander’s coins and memorial coins, with challenge coins being the most common name for these coins.
Purpose of These Coins
These coins are given as a token of respect, honour, patronage, affiliation, gratitude and support. These coins are also used as a gift for good behaviour; they’re most often given to soldiers, to boost morale before deployment. Military commanders often give military coins to the members of their troop who have done something noteworthy. Once a soldier receives a challenge coin, it should be carried at all times, mostly inside a pouch worn around the soldier’s neck or in his uniform’s pocket.
Cost of These Coins
Military coins can be moderately inexpensive to design and to produce, but there are highly expensive ones with intricate designs and stones. There are typically two basic processes to manufacture a coin: through die struck bronze or through zinc-alloy castings.
Die struck bronze is a more expensive process but the result is a superior product with numismatic quality, while the zinc-alloy casting process has a cheaper production cost. However, compared to the finished products rendered through the die struck bronze process, the end products of the zinc-alloy casting process are of low to average quality.
The Challenge Coin Game
Owners of military coins, particularly soldiers, often play a game between them. Since challenge coins are supposed to be carried by the owner at all times, the game is played in support of this tradition. To make sure that every soldier is complying with the tradition, another person would challenge a coin holder to see if the person has the challenge coin with him. The challenge coin game has spread to other military units and to all branches of the service. This traditional challenge is played with the following rules:
1. One soldier of the group pulls out a challenge coin and states clearly and loudly that a challenge coin check is being issued.
2. All members of the unit or the squad must show their challenge coins.
3. Any unit member who does not have the challenge coin with him must buy a round of drinks for the members who have their challenge coins with them.
4. If all unit members have their challenge coin with them, the challenger, on the other hand, needs to buy a round of drinks for all the unit members.
5. Those who refuse to participate or buy the round of drinks are sometimes forced or required to turn in their challenge coins.
Coins Outside the Military
Challenge coins are also collected and exchanged outside of the military. Civil Air Patrol, the World Series of Poker and the Harley Owners Group also have their own set of challenge coins. Challenge coins are also popular in Fire Departments, Police Departments, school organizations and clubs, fraternal organizations and even in the Congress.
Some collectors also buy challenge coins for their numismatic value. Challenge coins are also given as awards for accomplishments which are normally given to the recipient during a ceremony.
Overall, these military challenge coins are not only collected for their monetary value, but for their sentimental value as well. These coins are great tools not only for boosting morale, but also for showing gratitude and respect.
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