Be a Part of the Challenge Coin Tradition
At SymbolArts we create high-quality, custom challenge coins to match your exact specifications. Our coins are die-struck in solid brass and come in a variety of finishes, shapes, and sizes. We can change the degree of relief to highlight the fine details even more and can add a range of vivid colors to your design.
Why Are Challenge Coins So Popular?
The tradition of challenge coins started decades ago, and they remain extremely popular among military and public safety personnel. They developed as a way to show identification or affiliation with a certain group or organization, but they could also be a simple statement of values. There is a rich history behind these commemorative coins, and you can start creating your own traditions with our high-quality products.
Our coin finishes are available in:
- 24K gold or antique gold
- Nickel or antique nickel
- Copper or antique copper
- Bronze or antique bronze
- Silver or antique silver
- Satin gold or satin nickel
- Black dye
Common challenge coin sizes:
- 1 ½”
- 1 ¾”
The History of the Challenge Coin
There are a lot of stories that claim to tell the history of what would become the traditional challenge coin, but the most common has its origins in WW1. In this account, one of the wealthier lieutenants in a newly formed flying squadron commissioned a number of solid bronze medallions that featured the squadron emblem. He presented them to everyone in the unit, and one pilot kept his in a small leather pouch around his neck.
This pilot eventually crashed far behind enemy lines where he was captured by a German patrol. His captors removed all his possessions, including all his personal identification objects. The only thing he had left was the small leather pouch.
When he eventually escaped and made his way to a French outpost, he didn’t have anything to prove his identity except the simple, bronze challenge coin. The French soldiers recognized the squadron insignia and decided it was worth taking the time to confirm his identity.
After this experience, it became a tradition in the squadron to always carry their coins. The rule was enforced by the “challenge,” in which any other member could request, at any time, that the coin be presented. If the person challenged couldn’t produce the coin, he would then have to buy a drink for the challenger. If the coin was produced, however, it was the challenger who would buy the drinks.
Rules of the Challenge
A coin check can happen anytime and anywhere. There are no exceptions. A person could be clothed or unclothed, and the rules still apply. You will be permitted one step and an arm’s reach to get a hold of your coin, but if it’s further than that, you’re outta luck.
There are some restrictions on how you carry your coin, too. A coin attached to your belt buckle is now considered a “belt buckle” and not a coin. Coins on key chains only count as “key chains.” However, if you keep your coin on a holder or clasp of some kind and worn around the neck is still validly considered a challenge coin.
Using Your Challenge Coin
Do you need some ideas on how to implement a challenge coin within your department or organization? There are some simple ways to create a challenge coin program, and we can help you get started.
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Did You Know
First Steam-Powered Coin Press
Devised and built in France in 1833, the first steam-powered coin press was operated at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia on March 22, 1836. It quickly replaced the screw press in striking all copper coins and was gradually used to mint half dollars as well. In his report to President Andrew Jackson the following year, the Mint’s Director, Robert Maskell Patterson, wrote: “As [other steam presses] are completed, the coining by human labor could be abandoned, and the work that can be executed in the Mint will be greatly increased.”