Individuals who have no idea of what military coins are all about should not be surprised about it anymore. The exclusive nature of these items as well as the former uses that it had in the military many years ago makes it really less known among civilians today. Known also as challenge coins, these are used to symbolize membership to an organization or group. It carries the seal, emblem, or symbol of an organization to which an individual belongs. It should not be confused with medals that are awarded for special achievements. It could take form of the usual coin, medallion, or any other shape that the organization deems worthy of symbolizing them and their ideals.
The origin of the first military coin could be traced back to the early years of World War I. Ask any military personnel about the story of the first military coin and they would tell the same story. It is all about a US pilot who was shot down and captured by the Germans. He was able to escape after a brief period of captivity but came across some French soldiers who were thinking that he was a saboteur for the Nazis. Apparently, the military coin that he was carrying that time saved his life. This started the tradition of issuing military coins to selected regiments in the military.
Today, the tradition lives on. The US army, navy, air force, and other branches of the military issues their own military coins. The use of these coins surpassed its former purpose of just proving the membership of an individual within a group. At this point in time, it is being given to commemorate special events, celebrate achievements or jobs that were finished, and thank special visitors who are coming over to an organization.
The use of military coins has expanded also to the government agencies and civilian organizations.
The executive department of the government has its own rare challenge coins that are given out in case of state visits or to recognize special achievements of individuals within the country or territory. Law enforcement groups are now being seen to make use of these challenge coins too. There are civilian groups that also created their own challenge or challenge coins. The “National Association of Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers Motorcycle Club” or NABSTMC has its own unique challenge coin that its 2,000 members are awarded with.
While the use and appearance of these coins are gaining popularity these days, this shouldn’t be a cause for worry. There is a registry of all organizations and bodies that are known to be using and issuing such coins. Of course, there is still that level of exclusiveness as to who could own one of those items. These are awarded through a membership rite or a special ceremony. It is customary that the head of an organization or a high ranking member will be the one to award such coins to an individual. However, there are different ways or traditions that are being observed now across organizations that use and award these military coins.
There are rare challenge coins that could be bought by collectors. This brings us to another use of these things as items for fundraisers. Collectors of these types of coins are now increasing in number all over the world. Probably, one of the biggest factors that triggered the interest of people in this hobby is when former US President Bill Clinton was seen displaying his own collection of these challenge coins. His portrait which is displayed in the White House shows his collection in the background.
Organizations and private individuals could now have easy access to the makers or manufacturers of these coins. Online ordering is possible. There are makers of these coins that are found in South Korea, China, North America, and some locations across Europe. Getting these for cheap costs is possible when an organization orders these in bulk. Special edition or commemorative coins costs more of course.
The use of challenge coins is definitely getting more and more popular these days. From its beginnings in World War I to the most current civilian uses, there is no doubt that it will never outlive its significance.
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