How Do Military Challenge Coins Work?

As of 2021, there were 19 million veterans in the USA and one expects this number to be updated when a survey gets conducted later in 2023.

You might know several veterans in your life who have risked their lives to serve our great country. You want to find a way to show them your appreciation for their service.

One of the ways to do this is to gift them military challenge coins. This is a great souvenir for them that also serves a practical purpose.

Here are the challenge coin facts you should know:

The History of Challenge Coins

During the First World War, an American soldier fell behind German lines. The Germans captured him and took all his belongings. Well, there was one possession that they forgot to take.

It was a medallion with the symbol of his air squadron. This American soldier managed to escape the Germans and then soon found himself in the trenches occupied by French soldiers. 

The French soldiers initially thought he was a German soldier but then noticed the medallion around his neck.

Since this medallion signified his squadron it confirmed that he was part of the Allies. In other words, it saved his life and made the French realize that he was “one of them.”

This is how the tradition of the challenge coin began in the modern era. It’s a gift given to veterans from different military branches. It’s a great way to honor their achievements.

But that’s not all it is. Military challenge coins are also used as “keys” or secret passwords to get into exclusive meetings with fellow veterans.

Creating Military Challenge Coins

If you want to show appreciation for the veterans in your life, you can create custom military challenge coins for them.

These range in size but usually don’t go above 2 inches in diameter. The challenge coin often is double-sided and has a seal or inscription on them. This is used to reflect the veteran’s military branch and division.

Challenge coins can be made of pure gold or silver. For something more modest, you can choose regular metal and have it gold or silver-plated. You can also gift a plastic challenge coin if you wish.

You can buy pre-made challenge coins or get them customized. Often, the latter option is the most popular and shows that you truly appreciate the veterans whom you know.

You can even make 3D coins for veterans who really want to stand out. Make sure you experiment until you find what they’ll love the most.

How Challenge Coins Work

Now let’s see how challenge coins work and how veterans use them when they meet each other.

They are still a huge aspect of military culture and are used to celebrate the veteran’s service. It helps them build bonds with other veterans and helps them form a fraternity after they complete their service.

The veterans can organize meetings at a venue of their choice. Often, these include private rooms in country clubs, restaurants, and bars. They’ll show these challenge coins as a way of signifying their right to entry.

Often, there is a tradition on how the challenge coin must be presented. The host of the meetup is known as the Challenger. They have to request each military member to showcase their challenge coin.

If the “challenged” shows the challenge coin then they’ll receive 1 free drink courtesy of the Challenger. If they don’t they can still attend the meeting but they must buy a drink for the Challenger. Of course, your veterans can create whatever new tradition they wish.

This is the main purpose of a challenge coin. If you know several veterans who have served in the same branch, consider getting them the same challenge coin.

This will be a rare gift that only belongs to them and reminds them of their camaraderie during difficult times.

Of course, challenge coins don’t always have to serve a practical purpose. Often, they can get used solely as a gift or piece of memorabilia. They’re often made for military museums and as a way to share military history with the general public.

Best Practices

Now let’s end this guide by looking at a few best practices when creating and gifting challenge coins.

Make sure you know which of the military branches they served in. This lets you decide what seal to include on the challenge coin. 

Next, make sure you know what size will work best for them. Often, 1-inch challenge coins can be too small for some veterans. They can easily lose them so avoid this unless they prefer it.

In contrast, some veterans find 2-inch challenge coins to be a hassle. They don’t want to carry a heavy challenge coin and they want it to be as conspicuous as possible. For most veterans, 1.5 inches is the perfect diameter for a challenge coin.

Gold or silver are the best materials for making a challenge coin. Most veterans will want their military challenge coins to be made of the finest materials.

However, some veterans don’t want to go through the hassle of maintaining such challenge coins. Gold and silver have to be polished regularly and not doing so will cause them to get damaged.

In such cases, a plastic challenge coin is always best. Or, you can give them one made of another metal such as stainless steel. Make sure you always give them a case or small pouch. This will help them protect their challenge coin and is one of the best ways to protect it from getting lost.

Give Military Challenge Coins

Now you know how military challenge coins work and how they’re used to show appreciation to veterans today.

They’ve got a fascinating history that dates back to the First World War. Today, they help veterans build a fraternity and enter secret meetings where they can relive their memories.

Make sure you follow our best practices to help you gift or build a custom challenge coin. The veterans you know will thank you for it.

You can also do us a service by reading more great content on our website!

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