What is a challenge coin?
A challenge coin is a small coin or medallion bearing an organization’s insignia or emblem and carried by the organization’s members. Traditionally, they might be given to prove membership when asked and to enhance morale. They are also collected by service members and law enforcement personnel. Historically, challenge coins were presented by unit commanders in recognition of special achievement by a member of the unit. They could also be exchanged in recognition of visits to an organization.
There are several stories detailing the origins of the challenge coin. Many originate in popular culture based on current events.
The act of challenging is called a “coin check” and is usually loudly announced.
The challenge, which can be made at any time, begins with the challenger drawing his/her coin, and slapping or placing the coin on the table or bar. In noisy environments, continuously rapping the challenge coin on a surface may initiate the challenge. (Accidentally dropping a challenge coin is considered to be a deliberate challenge to all present.) Everyone being challenged must immediately produce the coin for their organization and anyone failing to do so must buy a round of drinks for the challenger and everyone else who has their challenge coin. However, should everyone challenged be able to produce their coin, the challenger must buy a round of drinks for the group.
Challenge coins are also exchanged outside the military.
Many non-profits, especially those with connections to the military, give challenge coins to donors to acknowledge their support of the organization.
Today, challenge coins are given to members upon joining an organization, as an award to improve morale, and sold to commemorate special occasions or as fundraisers.