Most people are not aware of what custom military coins are and what they are used for. There are so many of these coins that some people actually collect them for a hobby. The origin of these coins is quite interesting. There are many different stories, but the simple point is that challenge coins represent a long standing tradition in the military.
A challenge coin is supposed to show that a person is a member or affiliated with a certain organization within the military. The modern day punishment for failure to bring the challenge coin at a meeting was to buy each and every other member a round of drinks.
Today, challenge coins are collectibles. More often than not, people who collect them are military personnel themselves or just simply fascinated with the kind of camaraderie and bond that military service personnel have with one another. One famous person for collecting challenge coins
Challenge coins are more popular today than they have ever been. Below are a few instances were custom military coins have had a presence in popular culture.
The popular 1990’s TV show JAG was an American legal drama that had a very military feel to it. The show centered on two members uniformed lawyers. These lawyers worked for the Department of the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General. In other words, they were military personnel who functioned as lawyers.
The show was a smash hit and created a spin off show in the form of NCIS which also produced another spin off. By the end of the series, the two were at a crossroads on who between the two of them would quit their career in order to join another to a new duty station. A challenge coin was flipped in order to determine who would retire, but the audience was never shown how it fell.
In one of the episodes of NCIS, the character Tony is given a challenge coin by the United States Secretary of the Navy, SecNav for short, the character explain how being given a challenge coin is a sign that a person has rubbed their elbows with someone from the top brass.
There are plenty of other shows were military challenge coins were featured. Sometimes the challenge coin is used as a device in order to show that a person has earned their place within the group. Challenge coins have become a sort of shibboleth or gold standard for showing that a person is associated with a certain organization within the military.
Some presidents are known to have collected, received, or used custom military coins during their administration.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was known for having a large collection of challenge coins given to him by U.S. service members. His collection is prominently displayed on the credenza of his desk in the oval office in one of his pictures. In fact, this portrait serves as the official portrait which is hung in the White House.
On September 2007, George W. Bush had an unexpected and short visit to Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq. During his brief visit, George Bush was given a challenge coin by one of the marines who belonged to a patrol unit.
Finally, current U.S. President Barrack Obama used challenge coins to commemorate the death of some soldiers killed back in 2009 during the 2009 Fort Hood Shootings.
Whether people are aware of them or not, collecting challenge coins has risen in popularity throughout the past several decades. Custom military coins have become so popular that other organizations, such as firefighters, police officers, and etc. have begun to use them for their own.