Challenge coins represent commitment, allegiance, and camaraderie to those that make them and carry them. Where do they come from though? This is a brief history of challenge coins in the British Armed Forces and beyond.

Military commemorative coins have a long history which has been traced back to the ancient world. Ancient Greek warriors are said to have carried coins to pay for their trip to the afterlife, making their coins a stark reminder of the danger they faced every day. Ancient historians believe Roman soldiers were awarded a coin for exemplary service which could be kept and treasured or used as currency.

Challenge coins in World War I

Challenge coins were reportedly first awarded to British soldiers in World War I to pilots, and served as both a token of appreciation for their service and bravery, and a way to prove their identity and which nation they represented.

One famous, and possibly fictional, story tells the tale of a British soldier captured in Germany who managed to escape to France and prove he was their ally with the challenge coin he was awarded by his commanding officer. This became a very compelling reason for pilots to carry their challenge coins at all times, sometimes around their necks and sometimes hidden in their pocket.

Whether this really happened or not, challenge coins have been synonymous with the British Armed Forces for over a century and continue to be popular today.

Beyond Britain

The tradition has been adopted in other countries. The President of the United States gives out challenge coins to chosen servicepeople. It’s become a tradition to secretly hand out the coins while shaking hands. Challenge coins are now so popular in the US Armed Forces they’re widely framed on desks and worn on uniforms.

Which Armed Forces have challenge coins?

Challenge Coins UK makes a huge number of challenge coins for the British Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and Cadets. We’ve even created coins for armed forces overseas, including France, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

The coins have also become popular in the emergency services, public services, and military companies for marking commitment, allegiance, and specific achievements.

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