This is the definition you’ll find in Wikipedia if you look up 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 are given to prove membership when challenged and to enhance morale.”
And that is true, as far as it goes.
Today many different groups and individuals create these attractive and inexpensive pieces a for a variety of reasons. Among the most common uses are: recognition of an accomplishment, to mark an event or commemorate an occasion or individual.
For example: a volunteer fire department may create a coin that marks the commissioning and dedication of new engine. The coin may have the departments logo/patch on one side and a depiction of the new vehicle on the other. These are then be presented to the members and very often sold at the wet down to differ the cost of the dedication ceremony.
Another use is by police departments as a public relations tool presented to attendees and graduates of programs like D.A.R.E., Jr. Police and Youth Academies, and Explorer programs.
They are also used to commemorate fallen comrades or to raise funds for community-based organizations or individuals in need.
And these are just a few examples of the many uses that are we are seeing.
What need do you have that these inexpensive "Esprit D'Or" pieces will fill? Think about it...
And now... a little history.
Origin story # 1:
(Excerpted from an article by Katie Lange, Defense Media Activity)
The most well-known story linked the challenge coin tradition back to World War I. As the U.S. started building up its Army Air Service, many men volunteered to serve. One of those men was a wealthy lieutenant who wanted to give each member of his unit a memento, so he ordered several coin-sized bronze medallions to be made.
The lieutenant put his own medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore around his neck. A short time later, his plane was shot down over Germany. He survived but was captured by a German patrol, who took all of his identifiable items, so he would have no way to identify himself if he escaped. What they didn’t take was the small pouch with the medallion.
The lieutenant was taken to a small town near the front lines of the war. Despite his lack of ID, he managed to find some civilian clothing and escaped anyway, eventually stumbling into a French outpost. Wary of anyone not in uniform, the French soldiers didn’t recognize his accent and immediately assumed he was an enemy.
They initially planned to execute him, since they couldn’t ID him. But the lieutenant, remembering he still had the small pouch around his neck, pulled out the coin to show the soldiers his unit’s insignia. One of the Frenchmen recognized that insignia, so he was spared.
Instead of being executed, the lieutenant was given a bottle of wine, probably as a form of reparation for his initial treatment. When he finally made it back to his squadron, it became a tradition for all service members to carry a unit-emblazoned coin at all times, just in case.
Although often embellished this is the basic story and the most commonly repeated 'history' one hears. It just seems a little too 'convenient' , a little to neat for my tastes...
Till next time,