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The Armed Forces Challenge Coin Tradition: How it began

armed forces challenge coin

Rituals of awarding challenge coins to personnel associated with the Defense Department have been followed for a long time. However, very few people are familiar with its origins and how it paved the way to become a custom for army personnel, followed by its adoption in other sectors as well. Many speculate the origins of challenge coins from World War 1; however, it is said to uphold history from ancient Rome. The military usually boasts the tradition of awarding “the armed forces challenge coin” to its soldiers, but this tradition dates back. Let’s dive into its history.


Exploring The Saga: A Deep Dive Into The History Of The Armed Forces Challenge Coins

Organizations often reward tokens and medallions for lifelong services and milestones, especially when associated with the US Defense Department. They are known to reward with challenge coins, including the notable armed forces challenge coin. Let’s navigate through its history and evolution in chronological order:



Emergence During The Roman Times

Many historians have certified its origins during the era of Ancient Rome. In that era, soldiers who showcased their bravery on the battlefields were awarded Military Challenge Coins bearing the legion’s insignia


Rebirth During The World War 1

During World War 1, a lieutenant spearheading the flying squadron commissioned the creation of a bronze medallion as a gesture of esprit de corps and unity. Moreover, it served as an identity token for each member of the flying squadron. These medallions bore the emblem of the squadron unit. It gained traction after one of their pilots was apprehended by the French Forces, suspected of being a German spy. He presented his medallion, leading the Germans to spare his life. This story spread, leading these medallions to be adopted as identity tokens.


Significance Beyond The World War II

During World War II, members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA, adopted it to verify their identity during covert missions or when operating behind enemy lines. Its eminence as identity tokens further grew during the Korean War when one of the renowned commanders of the 17th Infantry Regiment, Colonel ‘Buffalo Bill’ Quinn, commissioned the challenge coins. The unit’s date is carved on one side along with ‘buffalo,’ while on the other side is carved ‘Korea’ along with dates, symbolizing the Korea tour. This armed force challenge coin is preserved in the historical archive of the Defense Unit. Then, during the Vietnam War, these armed forces coins were presented as tokens to honor units and their soldiers and to foster camaraderie.



Challenge Coins Today

In the latter, challenge coins were used as insignias to honor the services and milestones of the Defense unit or the soldiers associated with it. They have evolved not only to become identity or honorary tokens but also as tokens fostering unity and esprit de corps. Moreover, their use extends to various other organizations such as firefighting units and corporate sectors to commemorate the milestones of long-time workers. In addition to all of the above, these coins are also put up for sale or auction, usually for fundraising purposes.



Challenge coins have a rich history, originating from the Ancient Roman era to their eminence in the latter years of World Wars and proxy wars, serving as identity tokens and emblems to foster unity among soldiers. Moreover, the ritual of awarding this medallion paved its way to other sectors such as corporate sectors or firefighting units, commemorating the milestones and lifelong services of the workers. However, even in the present, it still holds significance within the Defense Unit, where soldiers celebrate victory with armed force Challenge Coins. Furthermore, these challenge coins are often available for sale or auction, mostly for fundraising purposes. They are frequently found among the trending searches for “buy armed force Challenge Coins” as, besides fundraising, they are often used as historical archives.For thorough knowledge about Medals, delve into custom medal blogs and explore the medallion market. Additionally, discover our offerings where we customize medals, coins, lapel pins, and more to suit your preferences