Appearance Of Custom Coins
There are many options for finishes of custom Challenge Coins, from simple pewter to 24K gold. Patina (finish) options range from gold, silver, or nickel to brass, copper, or bronze-as well as antiqued variations. A printed inset with an epoxy coating may add color (epoxies are usually more resilient and scratch-resistant than metal surfaces).
Cost Of Custom Coins
Making challenge coins is relatively inexpensive. There are two basic manufacturing processes: zinc alloy castings and die-struck bronze.
The zinc alloy castings are less expensive. Zinc casting also allows for more design flexibility, such as cutouts found on spinner coins or bottle opener coins. While bronze or brass coins are more expensive, the end result renders a far superior product (numismatic quality).
Currently, coins manufactured in China and South Korea typically cost between 3.00 and 7.00 per coin, depending on the production process and the complexity of the design, laser engraving, enamels, voids, etc. Depending on their complexity, dies can cost between 50 and 300, and need to be sculpted by an artist. Domestic manufacture can be much more expensive.
For competitive reasons, most North American challenge coin companies manufacture their products offshore. Since there is a strong connection between the US military bases there and South Korea, many challenge coins are made there at lower costs than in the US.
Coins United Kingdom
Challenge coins have often been given to exchange officers and British military visitors to US units and formations in recent decades. The British Army has been using challenge coins for recruiting purposes since the mid-2000s, for example the Special Air Service and the Royal Engineer units. As British military medical units worked with American units in Iraq and Afghanistan, they also learned about this tradition. The Department of Military Anesthesia and Critical Care issues a coin since 2006.
As tradition dictates, challenge coins are shown within social settings (see above) with the loser of the “coin check” purchasing drinks for the others. Since the British Military underwent a turbulent period of change, commanders have tightened restrictions on alcohol consumption and any activity that encourages drinking, leaving the traditional challenge coin as a collection item, as it was in the mid-1990s, then the NHS received coins for rewards.
Challenge coins have several origin stories. A lot of them originate from popular culture.
Soldiers were rewarded with coins from the Roman Empire for their achievements.
In the Renaissance, challenge coins were also called “Portrait Medals” and were often used to commemorate events involving royalty, nobility, or well-do individuals. Medals were given as gifts or awards, and people also exchanged them with friends and associates. On one side, a patron was depicted, and on the other, something that represented the patron’s family, house, lineage, or seal was displayed.
According to the popular story, challenge coins originated during World War I. Before the United States entered the war in 1917, American volunteers from all over the country manned the newly formed flying squadrons. There were wealthy scions attending Harvard and Yale who quit mid-term to join the war.
A wealthy lieutenant ordered solid bronze medallions and presented them to his unit. The young pilot placed the medallion in a small leather pouch around his neck. A ground fire severely damaged the pilot’s aircraft shortly after he acquired the medallion. As a result of his forced landing behind enemy lines, he was picked up by a German patrol immediately.
In addition to his small leather pouch around his neck, the Germans took all of his personal identification. Meanwhile, he was taken to a small town near the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment that night, he managed to escape. However, he did not have any identification with him. In civilian clothing, he avoided German patrols and reached the front lines. It was difficult to cross no-man’s land.
Eventually, he came upon a French outpost. French saboteurs had plagued the outpost. The saboteurs wore civilian clothes and often pretended to be civilians. They mistook the young pilot’s American accent for a saboteur and prepared to execute him. His leather pouch, which contained the medallion, was the only way he could prove his allegiance.
The medallion was shown to his would-be executioners, and one of them recognized the squadron’s insignia. It was at this point that he confirmed his identity and was spared execution. The other option would have been to shoot him.
In his squadron, it became a tradition to have all members carry their medallion or coin at all times. This was accomplished through challenge in the following manner: a challenger would ask for the medallion, if the challenged could not produce one, they were required to buy the challenger a drink. If the challenged member produced a medallion, the challenged member had to buy the drink. During the war and for many years after, when surviving members of the squadron were still alive, this tradition was followed.
Participants can challenge at any time by drawing their coin and slapping it on the table or bar. The challenge coin may be initiated if it is continuously rapped on a surface in a noisy environment.
Everyone being challenged must immediately produce their challenge 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, if everyone challenged is able to produce their coin, the challenger must purchase drinks for everyone in the group.
While most holders of challenge coins usually carry them in their pockets or in some other readily accessible place on their persons, most versions of the rules permit a challenged person “a step and a reach” or if an individual has an extra coin to pass it off to the person closest to them. Coins on belt buckles or key chains are not acceptable for meeting a challenge. However, a coin worn around the neck is acceptable for meeting a coin challenge.
Variants of the rules include, but are not limited to, the following: If someone is able to steal a challenge coin, everyone in the group must buy a drink for that person. During a challenge, everyone in the group must buy a drink for the holder of the highest-ranking coin.
Challenge coins are ranked according to the rank of the person who gives them. Admiral coins are more valuable than Vice Admiral coins, while both are more valuable than a Captain coin. The presentation of a coin is traditionally done during a handshake. Depending on the unit, time limits may be imposed on the response to a challenge. Coins may also be ranked according to their difficulty. Infantryman coins rank higher than logistical coins. Ranger coins rank higher.
Challenge rules typically prohibit defacing the coin, especially if it makes it easier to carry at all times. When a challenge coin is attached to a belt buckle or key ring, or if it has been drilled with a hole for attachment to a lanyard, it is not considered a challenge coin.