Tag Archives: Custom Challenge Coins

Origins of Custom challenge coins

Challenge coins have been around for decades. They are custom-minted coins that have been part of the military tradition. It is a symbol of camaraderie carried by every member of an organization. Where and when did the practice of challenge coins started?

Custom challenge coins are believed to have started in the military. Exactly when and why is still a mystery. The only sure thing about the practice of custom challenge coins is that it is a very old practice, older than today’s modern age.

History of Use in the military

The earliest known reference to the use of challenge coins is in Ancient Rome. Enlisted soldiers were given monetary rewards for displays of valor. The day’s pay is given after a day of battle. Good performance is given a special, separate coin- a bonus. This special coin is believed to be the very first custom challenge coin- minted specifically with the mark of the legion that the soldier belonged to.

Because of the special markings, soldiers who received these coins tend to hold on these, as a memento of their award, instead of spending this special coin on wine and women. This coin, in those ancient times, had market value, good as the regularly minted coins. The only difference was the special markings.

History as mark of identity

Challenge-CoinsOver the next centuries, special coins were handed out as a token of valor and good military service. The first modern challenge coin was believed to have been used during World War I. A plane was shot down by German troops and the pilot was stripped off of all his belongings, except for a leather pouch that hung around his neck. The pouch incidentally contained the challenge coin- marked with the insignia of the company he belonged to.

The pilot was able to survive and escape prison. Arriving in France, the French army thought he was a spy. The pilot showed his challenge coin as proof of his identity. One of the French soldiers recognized the symbol printed on the coin and validated the pilot’s identity. Since then, it is believed, that challenge coins were used as a symbol of belonging to a certain military unit.

Why “challenge” coin

The specially marked coins trace its origin as a “challenge” coin after World War II, in Germany. American soldiers adopted the pfennig check. A pfennig is a German coin of the lowest value. Soldiers would bring out their pfennigs on put them on a table, “challenging” other soldiers to do the same. The one who has no pfennig to put on the table, or the last one to do so was obliged to buy everyone a round of drinks. Over the years, the pfennig was replaced by the unit’s medallion.

History of popular use

Custom challenge coins began to gain popularity during the Vietnam War. The US Army’s 10th and 11th Special Forces Groups created the first custom challenge coins. These were common currency with the unit’s insignia marked on one side of the coin. The men from these units carried these coins with pride.

Soon, other units followed suit, to distinguish their units and the men for their acts of valor. These coins were handed out as awards or commemorative coins to honor hard-fought battles that the men and their unit survived.

Current use

Today, challenge coins have extended outside of the military. US President Clinton started the tradition of presidents having their own custom challenge coins. These are made for the president’s inauguration, another to commemorate that president’s administration, and another to be made available to the public.

The rarest, most difficult and most-sought after custom challenge coin today is that official presidential coin that someone can only receive by shaking the US President’s hand. This happens upon the discretion of the president. President Bush was said to have given these coins to soldiers coming home after a war. President Obama is said to frequently give out these coins to the soldiers stationed on the stairs of Air Force One.

Author Bio:
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Custom Challenge Coins and the Recognition Program


Companies—like people—nowadays are doing their best to keep afloat amid the fierce competition, the inflation, and instability of markets. Cost-cutting has been more prevalent in most companies than increasing cash flow. While companies strive to achieve the latter, the volatile work environment and markets call for more prudent expenditure of resources.

Companies strive to adopt methodologies to increase efficiency, cut costs, and minimize waste. They strive to retain their customers and employees. They strive to increase their market share. Effort is given to keep stability by avoiding losses and ensuring return of investments.

Companies know that by taking care of their employees, their employees will take good care of their customers. It is then of utmost importance to ensure employee satisfaction across all levels in the company.

Apart from the basic salary which marks basic competence, companies have also come up with rewards systems. Most rewards systems include performance bonuses and cash incentives. Companies that see the need to cut costs have come up with the recognition program. This is in addition to the rewards system that rewards exceptional performance.

Employees truly appreciate monetary rewards. However, there is still that need to be recognized for their accomplishments. While a ceremony can surely cost money, giving a badge or a custom challenge coin to an employee can be enough recognition. The employee then has the option to wear it like his superiors do with theirs.

Employees are more likely to wear their custom challenge coins to signify their achievement because peer recognition is also important. Peers know all the struggles that another peer goes through. Having earned these coins to mark accomplishments—and that being recognized by peers—is truly rewarding to an employee.

Recent studies show that recognition programs should be as frequent as the accomplishments are. It is therefore important for a company to be specific about the behaviors and performance that will merit an employee to earn a custom challenge coin. It must be different and altogether separate from the company’s reward system.

Like the reward system, recognition should also be tied to company goals. Providing custom challenge coins to employees must mean that the recipients have contributed something to reach company goals. The importance of handing them out to employees is that they have overcome that challenge of exceeding expectations.

Recognition programs are important because they meet not just one—but two of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—the need to belong and the need for accomplishment or self-fulfillment. A custom challenge coin becomes a symbol of attainment that an employee can flaunt to his colleagues or even with his friends.

While monetary rewards may meet physical needs (since they are monetary), recognition meets an employee’s psychological needs. Recognition of one’s achievements certainly does wonders to the morale of employees. They feel fulfilled and they feel that they have a future in the company–the more that they will pour their hearts and minds into their jobs.

It is important for companies to arrive at a recognition program for their employees. Although everyone likes monetary rewards, recognition is also as important because it is one of an employee’s basic human needs. The most cost-efficient way to recognize an employee’s efforts is to give him badges of success–custom challenge coins—to signify his accomplishments. There is no need for pomp or ceremony. Custom challenge coins are given with a good-natured handshake. The company recognizes the achievement of the employee without unnecessarily spending money on venue and food. The priorities of other employees and other departments are also not compromised because they no longer have to attend a ceremony.