The Traditional Challenge Coin has become the number one souvenir collectable for the US Military. Almost every unit now has its own coin. Many Police Departments, Special Units, and Fire Departments also have their own coins to award and provide ‘on the spot’ recognition to their team members. Challenge coins are also often traded between officers working for different departments or agencies.
From the earliest days of this tradition, the coins were carried to show membership in a unit. Soldiers from as far back as the Korean War would “challenge” comrades by showing their coins. The challenged soldier would have to present his or her coin or “buy a round”. If the soldier challenged had the required coin, the challenger would then be required to buy the round. Little has changed to date.
The earliest documented US military unit coin is one made in the 1950’s for the 17th Infantry in Korea, 1950-1953. The coin is the size of a nickel and finished in bright silver. Challenge coins in the size and style as we now know them surfaced during the Vietnam War era. Thanks to modern manufacturing techniques a nearly endless variety of colors, finishes, and textures are now available.