Important Things to Know About Military Challenge Coins

Military coins, also known as challenge coins, have been around for far longer than many people realize, and, according to rumors, were used during the reign of the Roman empire. Military coins are typically presented to those that have been recognized for great achievements in the military or in some form of service, hence the idea of firefighter challenge coins and others that have gained notice throughout the years.

Challenge coins are considered a point of honor among those that have served and as such, these military coins are not often shared with just anyone. Buying military or challenge coins is a personal matter but is typically done by those that have a specific purpose in mind for them.

There are a few important things to know about challenge coins, as custom challenge coins have gained popularity among certain military units since the Vietnam War. Navy challenge coins have been featured on TV shows. USMC challenge coins, firefighter challenge coins, police challenge coins, and many more are shared among specialized units and are seen as badges of honor that distinguish one person from another. With that being said though, it is important to realize that the worth of these coins often transcends their monetary value. Let’s get into a few things that a person should know about military challenge 

Why Create Custom Challenge Coins?


BPD "HOLD THE LINE" Challenge CoinMilitary coins used to be created to help with identification. The coins would possess a certain image, date, or inscription, and this allowed the bearer to prove that they belonged to a certain unit.

There were moments when, caught behind enemy lines, a soldier might have need of his military coin to prove who he was to various allies so that he wouldn’t be shot or hanged as an enemy spy.

There are many other similar stories, but the identification purpose of military coins has been a common story for well into a century.

Challenge Coins Can Represent a Distinct Unit or Group

Navy challenge coins, USMC challenge coins, firefighter challenge coins, police challenges coins, and many others are generally created for a specific group to identify themselves as a unit. The military challenge coin becomes a mark of pride for what the unit has faced together and their commitment to one another through their shared service.

What Does a Challenge Coin Represent?

Personal Achievement

US Navy Master at Arms CoinQuite often a challenge coin is presented to an individual after they have completed a great undertaking or service.

Those receiving a Navy challenge coin might have attained a new rank; those that receive a USMC challenge coin could have shown great courage and/or fortitude during a mission; those receiving a firefighter challenge coin could have performed their duty in a manner that went above and beyond what was expected. These are just a few examples that showcase that challenge coins are often granted to individuals following some type of personal achievement.

Creating Bonds and Connections

There is a sense of unity that’s created with the use of challenge coins. It signifies that a person belongs to a group and that they’ve earned the respect and the regard of their peers in a very important way.

Military coins and firefighter challenge coins are as good as officially welcoming someone to the family. While not everyone uses challenge coins for this purpose, it is a practice that is gaining traction with each passing year.

A Few Things To Avoid with Military Coins

BCFD Challenge CoinAs with many things in this world, there are do’s and don’ts when it comes to challenge coins, especially when it comes to military coins.

Those who have served in the military tend to frown heavily upon others that play around with traditions relating to challenge coins of any sort. Challenge coins are not a universal practice, but for those that take them seriously, challenge coins represent a point of pride and honor that’s not to be taken lightly.

Don’t Brag About the Challenge Coin

Most soldiers, firefighters and other public servants know better than to brag about how highly decorated they are. To many people, this act of humility shows that the soldiers or decorated citizens have served their country and their people with distinction.

With a military coin, bragging is bad form, especially because bragging in the company of others may constitute a challenge if someone else also has the same challenge coin or military coin. Often this only results in the challenger buying a round of drinks for everyone with the same coin, but it’s considered bad form to have bragged about the receival of the coin. Instead, it can be recommended to explain the coin and what it means and why it was awarded, as opposed to bragging outright and cheapening the meaning of the award.

Don’t Lose the Challenge Coin

If you happen to lose your challenge coin, you may up owing others in your group a round of drinks. Losing a challenge coin indicates a lack of dedication and unity to the group you share the coin with.

Some people look at challenge coins as little more than decoration, which is their prerogative, but others will often see losing a coin as a less than reputable act — it might be taken as an understanding that the bearer doesn’t care about the challenge coin or the reason it was given to them, and is a sign of disrespect.

Don’t Deface a Challenge Coin

Defacing a challenge coin will lose its value both in monetary terms and its symbolic value to the group you share the coin with.

Military coins are seen as badges of honor, as are those that are handed out to public servants, and defacing a challenge coin is another sign of disrespect that people who belong to the same group won’t take lightly.

Don’t Flaunt a Military Coin if You’ve Never Been in the Military

It can’t be said enough that if you’ve never enlisted and never spent a day in the military, don’t claim valor that’s not yours. Military coins are for those that have served, and public servant challenge coins are for those that have served the public in some way.

There are many challenge coins for numerous different groups that honor a great many things, but there is one thing an individual must consider: if you don’t belong to the group or have done nothing to earn the challenge coin, then don’t purchase one, don’t flaunt one, and by no means challenge anyone that actually has one.


Custom challenge coins exist for many groups and are meant to honor achievements of all sorts, and their symbolic value should be respected and only bestowed and shared with those who have earned them.

A specific style of challenge coin can be created for virtually any group, for any reason. Most times challenge coins are created to award or recognize acts of valor, special missions, service to the public, and other actions that are considered to go above and beyond one’s normal term of service to the military or to the general public.

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