If there’s one thing we all crave in life, it’s recognition. We want to be recognized for a job well done, for conditions endured, and for our participation in a specific organization or endeavor.
What does recognition have to do with custom made coins? Once you learn the history of custom coins, you’ll understand perfectly.
Nowadays, custom coins come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Before we talk about what you can do with custom made coins now, however, it’s important to go back to their origins.
Read on to learn the history behind custom made coins and how you can use them today to make your employees or members of your organization feel recognized.
What are Custom Made Coins?
When you picture a coin, you probably picture currency like nickels and dimes. Custom made coins (aka challenge coins) are similar in that they’re often small enough to fit in your pocket and feature engravings or designs, but that is where the similarities end. Custom made coins don’t function as currency, but they still hold plenty of value.
Custom made coins are 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter and quite thin. You will see round custom made coins more often than not, but you will also encounter the occasional hexagonal coin or dog tag-shaped coin.
Custom made coins tend to be made from metal such as bronze, copper, pewter, or nickel. Nowadays, however, you can also order or receive ceramic challenge coins. The ceramic material feels similar to a gambling chip you might receive in a casino, only heavier and more durable.
Who Made the First Custom Made Coin?
Now, let’s get into the history of these special coins. It’s hard to pin down the exact origins, but we’re here to offer our best estimates of when custom made coins started making their appearances in history and how they were used. Keep reading to learn more.
It is certain that custom made coins have historically held ties to military service. While something that bears closer to resemblance to the custom coins of today didn’t appear until the 20th century, we do believe that some type of military coin was used in Ancient Rome.
When Roman soldiers performed in a remarkable way, they were given a bonus coin in addition to their typical wages. Many soldiers felt that it was an honor to receive a bonus coin and chose to save it, rather than spend it. Thus, these bonus coins became more than simple currency.
World War I Ties
As legend would have it, World War I saw the rise of the custom coin as we know it today. The story goes that an American officer gave his troops bronze medallions bearing the insignia of their squadron to honor their service overseas. Not long after the coins were distributed, German troops shot down the plane of one of the pilots and captured him.
The pilot escaped and made it to France, where he was detained by French troops who believed that he was a German spy. By showing them his medallion–the only thing the Germans didn’t take from him–he was able to prove his identity and obtain his release.
Widespread Usage During the Korean War
Custom made challenge coins took off sometime during the Korean War, perhaps thanks to Col. “Buffalo Bill” Quinn. As a leading member of the 17th Infantry Regiment, Col. Quinn made two-sided coins, one featuring the regiment’s insignia and the other featuring a buffalo.
To make these coins easier to carry during battle, Col. Quinn had holes drilled into the center so that the coins could be strung and worn around the neck.
Where Does the Name “Challenge” Coin Come From?
As we mentioned earlier, another name for custom made coins in the military tradition is “challenge coins.” Where does this name come from?
One possible answer links the challenge coin to World War II when American troops started performing “pfennig checks.” Pfennigs are small German coins worth very little money.
American soldiers would head into a bar for the night, and someone would call for a pfennig check in which everyone would produce a pfennig from their pocket. Whoever didn’t have a pfennig on hand would pay for the night’s drinks. If everyone had a pfennig, whoever led the challenge would pay for the night’s drinks.
The challenge would later apply to custom made coins, leading to the affectionate term, “challenge coin.”
What Can You Do With Custom Made Coins Today?
The tradition of distributing or awarding custom made coins is still alive and well today. What are some of the ways that you can use them? Let’s take a look.
Create a line of custom made coins that acknowledge a specific achievement. This can include things like securing a promotion, landing a big sale, or completing a major milestone. When someone in your company or organization unlocks this achievement, honor them with a custom made coin.
Some organizations are exclusive or require hard work to join. When someone new joins your organization, give them a custom made coin that proves or solidifies their membership. This coin can function as a commemoration as well as a calling card.
Promote Your Company
One really creative way to use custom made coins is to print your company logo or slogan and distribute them. This is a great way to promote your company and generate brand awareness. You can give out coins at events like trade shows or at the start of a major sale.
Recognize Membership and Achievements With Custom Made Coins
Everyone wants to feel recognized for their achievements or status. Custom made coins have a long history of providing that type of recognition, and you can use them to make people feel recognized or welcome today.
Looking for more ways to boost your lifestyle or make those around you feel good? Take a look at our lifestyle content for more tips and tricks.