Have you thought about buying a challenge coin? These are a great investment and are a great way of preserving history.
But have you ever wondered about the history of challenge coins? If you’re going to start issuing challenge coins for your organization, you should know about their roots.
Did you know it all started with an American soldier who found his way behind enemy lines?
Let’s jump into a brief history of challenge coins. They’re a fascinating aspect of American culture that few now about.
Let’s turn back time to the First World War:
How a Challenge Coin Display Saved a Life
During the First World War, the flying squadrons in the US Armed Forces consisted of volunteers from all over the country. There were even members of America’s elite — who studied at Ivy League universities — who joined these squadrons.
One squadron leader ordered bronze medallions to be given to each of his squadron’s members. These medallions displayed the emblem of the squadron.
There was one squadron member who wore his medallion around his neck. It reminded him of his duty toward his country and his squadron. This squadron member was a pilot, and his aircraft had become severely damaged.
This pilot had to land behind enemy lines and was captured by German forces. These German soldiers stripped him of his uniform and identification, which they felt would discourage him from escaping.
He managed to escape anyways and soon entered France. He was questioned by French soldiers who suspected him of being a spy.
However, one French soldier noticed the medallion. This French soldier realized that the pilot was an American ally. The emblem on the medallion confirmed the pilot’s identity.
In other words, the challenge coin display saved the American pilot’s life!
As a result, these medallions, now known as challenge coins, remain popular among military personnel. You can learn more about why challenge coins are popular here.
How Challenge Coins Became Tradition
This pilot was taken care of by his French allies. He eventually reunited with his squadron and told them about the story of his capture, escape, and rescue.
This made others realize that they should keep their challenge coins on their person at all times.
This created the tradition of bestowing challenge coins. Challenge coins also became a form of identification for military personnel. They would present their challenge coins to enter a meeting at a private club, for instance.
But challenge coins today aren’t just for military personnel. Anyone can use a challenge coin as a form of identification for their organization.
If you run a private organization or have a small fraternal organization, you might want to consider issuing custom challenge coins to your members. This will help distinguish them as members of your organization. It also grants them exclusive access to your meetings and events.
Challenge Coin Rules
You can determine the challenge coin rules for your organization. However, it’s important to understand the general challenge coin rules according to tradition.
Here’s how challenge coin rules usually work:
- The gatekeeper of the event takes out their challenge coin and displays it to the attendees
- The gatekeeper might make a verbal statement or perform a ritual to initiate the challenge
- The attendees must display their challenge coins and then perform a response to the challenge
- If an attendee doesn’t have their coin, they’ll have to buy a meal and beverage for the gatekeeper
- Failure to do so can get them barred from the event
- Each member has a unique challenge coin so they can’t borrow one from another member
- The challenge coin should only be granted to a member who shares the values of the organization
You want to ensure that you explain your organization’s challenge coin rules before issuing the coins. You want to make sure that all your members agree to these rules.
You also want to put your members to the test before issuing challenge coins to them.
Make sure they understand the appropriate responses to your challenges. You also want to ensure that they understand the challenges that the gatekeeper will put forth.
What Makes a Great Challenge Coin?
As we now know, a traditional challenge coin design had the emblem of a military branch imprinted on it.
But how should you design your custom challenge coins? You can put the emblem or seal of your organization on the coins. For example, if you are a member of a Greek-letter Fraternity or Sorority, you can print the Greek letters on the challenge coin.
At the same time, this might be too generic. How do you know that everyone who possesses such a challenge coin is indeed a member of the organization?
You might want to add a unique feature to the design that isn’t generic. Don’t choose a design that can get replicated easily. You also don’t want to choose a design that is too popular among consumers.
You also want to consider the size of your challenge coin. Do you want it to be large enough to weigh down in someone’s pocket? This might be too burdensome to some members. On the other hand, this also gives the challenge coin a sense of authority!
You can also choose a challenge coin that’s tiny so that it’s more conspicuous. However, these tiny challenge coins can get easily lost. Most challenge coins are the size of a US Quarter.
The final step is to determine the material of your challenge coin. Bronze is ideal for most cases. However, you can also offer challenge coins made of pure gold if you run an exclusive organization.
That’s the Fascinating History of Challenge Coins
Now that you know the history of challenge coins, you can determine if you want to issue them for your organization.
These challenge coins were started to identify military personnel. Once they saved an American soldier’s life, they became an integral part of military culture.
Today, challenge coins can get used for almost any type of organization. Make sure you research how to create custom challenge coins and the best options for your organization.
You can find even more great content about challenge coin history on our blog!