Within military and law enforcement communities, challenge coins are a highly respected tradition designed to recognize service and excellence. They mark a time, a membership, a mission and even a family. Each coin is a special currency with a value known only by its holder.
Coining the Phrase
So how did challenge coins get their start? The legend goes back to WWI, with a wealthy lieutenant who gave each member of his unit a solid bronze medallion. One of the lieutenant’s pilots wore his medallion in a small leather pouch around his neck. In battle, the pilot’s plane was damaged by ground fire, and he was forced to land behind enemy lines. He was captured by the Germans, but was able to escape, wearing civilian attire to avoid recapture. He reached the front lines and made it to a French outpost.
Yet adversaries posing as nationals had plagued the French.
The young man’s American accent raised suspicions, and the French planned to execute him. He showed his bronze medallion to his French captors. One of them recognized the squadron insignia. As his execution was stayed, they verified his identity and later — instead of a bullet — gave him a bottle of wine.
The Other Side of the Coin
Today challenge coins are collected, cherished and displayed. They also are a source of camaraderie — and free drinks — at local watering holes. It starts with a challenger who draws his or her coin and slaps it on the bar, challenging other patrons to produce their coins. Anyone who is unable to show their challenge coin must buy the next round of drinks.
What’s Your Challenge Coin Story?
We’d love to know. Share with us in the comments below.
Meet Us in Vegas: January 19-22, 2016
The Angel Armor team will be at SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Stop by our booth, N512. Show us your challenge coins, and we’ll show you ours.
Looking forward to trading stories with you,