Outside military circles, the concept of a challenge coin is not easily grasped. When it comes to civilians, there is a limited few who fully understand the symbolism and value of these coins. Veterans have accumulated a number of these keepsakes and have surely passed them onto their children and grandchildren.
There are certain branches of the military that hold onto these coins as a symbol of recognition. In other regiments, the coins may hold a different meaning. In other military branches such as the Special Forces unit, there exists a deeper story behind these custom military coins.
The Special Forces unit is comprised of soldiers who are given the task of surviving insurmountable odds as they rescue their wounded comrades, execute sleuth-like counter attacks, conduct spy missions, and serve as the military’s last line of defense. It has been said that the modern era challenge coins that have risen in popularity can be attributed to the tradition that was started by these troops.
These soldiers are trained to survive in the worst possible conditions during a time of war. They are also trained to showcase an impressive array of combat skills. During the Vietnam War when these custom military coins were starting to garner the attention and interest of military troops, the Special Forces units did not only carry them as stamped currency. They carried them with pride.
One of the traditions of the Special Forces is to give each team member a lone bullet. This single bullet has to be carried around at all times and serves as one soldier’s last resort to try and escape enemy hands. Instead of its original purpose, members of the unit began treating the bullet as a badge. It provided them the distinct identity of being a member of the Special Forces.
In line with the challenge game that soldiers are fond of, these people would slam the live ammunition onto bar tables when a challenge was called out to see who would buy the drinks. Although the force was not intense, many feared that this might be a reason for any unwanted accidents. This was when custom military coins were suggested and everything started from this point.
What began with the Special Forces unit eventually spread like wildfire to the other troops and regiments. It did not take long before each regiment had a challenge coin specifically designed for their team. In as little as a few months, more of these coins surfaced each bearing a different insignia, motto, specialized slogan, and other commemorative elements. Aside from being awarded to recognized members of the military, some of these custom military coins were traded amongst soldiers. This led to the rise in popularity of collecting challenge coins.
The growing interest in these coins did not end there. After all military branches had their very own coin designs it was time for the people in the White House to have theirs. During this time, the President, Vice President, and all others that followed had their very own coins. For those who are not part of the military of government, these coins are rather collectible items especially those which have been fabricated for Presidential inaugurations.
A rarer custom coin is one which can only be received by those who have shaken the hand of a President. This is the official Presidential coin that can easily fetch thousands up to millions of dollars. In the case of Presidential coins, it is under the discretion of the head of state as to where and to whom the coins will be distributed. Some Presidents reserved their coins to give to soldiers who were wounded in action.