What Is the History of the Challenge Coin?


Quick Answer

There are a few different legends regarding the origins of the challenge coin. The Roman Empire awarded coins to soldiers to recognize their achievements. Some of the earliest challenge coins were those minted by Colonel "Buffalo Bill" Quinn during the Korean War for his men. These coins featured a buffalo on one side to represent Colonel Quinn and the regiment's insignia on the flip side.

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Full Answer

One legend about the challenge coin, dating back to World War I, claims that a wealthy officer had bronze medallions made with the flying squadron's insignia on them. The officer handed out these medallions to his men, and one of them was shot down over Germany and captured. He escaped to France, but the French believed he was a spy and sentenced him to execution. He proved his identity by using the medallion and was saved from execution and sent back to his unit. As of 2014, challenge coins are actively traded among retired and active-duty members of the military and among civilian personnel in government agencies. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have all had challenge coins minted to present to diplomats of foreign countries and White House guests. Armed services members have multiple opportunities to receive various challenge coins throughout their career.

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