What is a challenge coin? It is a coin used as a token of identity among the military units to signify allegiance to a particular unit. The challenge coin has unique designs specific of the unit’s motto, insignia or symbol. It was originally given by the combat or unit’s officers to their members to show appreciation also for the soldiers’ exemplary performance during a battle.
So originally, challenge coins were distributed among military servicemen only. Later on however, the United States Air Force has the “Bull Dog Challenge” coins given to the enlisted gunners upon their graduation. It was exclusive for B-52 air force men only. It represented strength and courage among the members.
Today, there are many types of challenge coins being created and distributed. It has moved outside the perimeters and confines of the military too. There are now many coins existing, available to the public either for sale or as a gift. Here are some samples of the different types of challenge coin outside the military.
As a sign of exclusivity, the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) created and sold specially designed Harley Davidson coins to owners of the said motorcycles only. They believed and proclaimed that Harley Davidson owners and users have a special bond and pride of being owners the same way that the military shared a bond when they served the country. They also instructed the owners to either carry the challenge coin in their person at all times or display it on their bikes. The logo was stamped on one side and the words “The Official Riding Club of Harley-Davidson” is written on the other side. The coins were made from solid brass alloy with an antique finish. The challenge coins were sold for $12 a piece.
On the other hand, the Utah Symphony and Opera was the first to distribute challenge coin among its staff and musicians in the early 2000’s. Though there were no stated reasons why, it was assumed that it was distributed as a token of appreciation for being a part of the opera.
Some of the coins were created to be given as gifts and tokens of appreciation. One example was when film director Jon Favreau gave especially designed Iron Man coins to the United States Air Force personnel for their participation during the filming of the movie Iron Man 2. By the way, the movie became a top grosser.
The National Association of Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers Motorcycle Club” also distributed a specially made challenge coin. The coin was 1.75 inches in diameter. It was made of solid brass with an antique finish. The logo was stamped on the front side of the coin while at the back, their motto “We Can, We Will” and “Ready Forward” were stamped. The coin is usually awarded by the Chapter president or a national officer to a member who has shown a noteworthy achievement. It has become a token of recognition. This challenge coin is given only to the member who earned it. Therefore, it modified the original version where all the members usually receive a challenge coin from the commanding leader of the particular unit they belonged to.
On 2009, the worst mass murder took place on a military base at Fort Hood, Texas. Thirteen soldiers died and thirty more were reported to be severely injured in a shooting, which was later categorized as a workplace violence. As a token of honor for the brave soldiers who were killed during the Fort Hood shooting, President Barak Obama placed special challenge coins on the memorials of these soldiers.
The creation and distribution of challenge coins are also gaining popularity among the different organizations and departments such as the police, fire, fraternity, clubs and other special groups for various reasons. It can be for sentimental reasons or personal reasons only. The challenge coin is definitely here to stay although the reasons and types have evolved throughout the generations.
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