Custom coins, also known as challenge coins, have different forms aside from the traditional coin shape. These coins are sometimes shaped as pentagons, arrowheads, and shields. While they are called coins, they do not have any monetary value. As a matter of fact, it is not the Federal Government that issues such coins. Different branches of the Armed Forces and several other government and private entities distribute them for many reasons.
Traditional Challenge Coin
The traditional round challenge coin is about 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter and its thickness is about a tenth of an inch. Generally, it has the motto of the organization, its logo, and other features that make the coin distinct.
Custom challenge coins are usually made from pewter, nickel, or copper. Other custom coins are gold plated and their mottos and logos are hand painted, machine-printed, or embossed.
Custom Challenge Coin in the Military
Every unit of the Armed Forces has its own challenge coin. This is the reason why these coins are also called military coins. The history of military coins can be dated back to World War I. It then became popular and different units created unique coins. These days, policemen, the Coast Guard, Marines, and firefighters have their own challenge coins. These coins are given to show respect and gratitude to their members. Moreover, they can also be given to recognize the members for their courageous efforts and as a sign of camaraderie.
The US Air Force gives challenge coins to their soldiers when they finish their training. They have a challenge coin called “Bull Dog,” which was exclusively given to the tail gunners of their B-52 aircraft. This challenge coin is now rare because the B-52 tail gunner position has been removed in 1991. However, it was this challenge coin that led off the creation of custom coins in private organizations.
Custom Coin in the Private World
Private companies have implemented the idea of giving out challenge coins to their members. These coins represent the responsibility of every person in the organization. For example, schools give coins to the members of their sports teams, to the batch president, and to each class president.
Many businesses also give out challenge coins to recognize employees for their contribution to their company. Moreover, these coins can be issued as a token of gratitude for their visitors and clients. Military coins are now truly a “household name” not only in the Armed Forces, but also in the business world.
The Utah Symphony and Opera is one of the private organizations that issue custom coins to their musicians and staff. They started doing this in 2007, making them the first symphony group in the US to issue challenge coins.
There are other companies that issue custom challenge coins to their customers. Through these coins, the company and their customers create some kind of a bond. The customers can be constantly reminded of the great service they had from this certain company.
United States Presidents
President Bill Clinton has a collection of challenge coins given to him by several leaders within the US military. They can be seen in the background of his official presidential portrait. Currently, the coins are displayed at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.
When President George W. Bush had a surprise visit to Al Asad Airbase in Iraq in 2007, a Marine combat patrol unit gave him a military challenge coin.
The memorials of the soldiers who died in the Ford Hood shooting in 2009 each have a challenge coin given by President Barack Obama.
So, with these, it should be obvious that customized coins have become rather ubiquitous in today’s society.