top of page

Challenge Coins


A challenge coin is a small metal (or other material) coin of varying shape and size, that displays a connection to a unit, command, force, or person. They are used to commemorate, honor, and/or engift someone a token from the originator (example: Commanding Officer giving a subordinate a coin to show recolonization for an achievement or service with their unit).




There are several stories detailing the origins of the challenge coin.

There is evidence that the Roman Empire rewarded soldiers by presenting them with coins to recognize their achievements.

During the Renaissance, coins given were also known as "Portrait Medals" and were often used to commemorate specific events involving royalty, nobility, or other types of well-to-do individuals. The medals would be given as gifts or awards, and people also exchanged them with friends and associates.

The most common origin story for challenge coins stims form World War I. Before the entry of the United States into the war in 1917 American volunteers from all parts of the world volunteered in the newly formed flying squadrons. Some were wealthy scions attending colleges such as Yale and Harvard who quit in mid-term to join the war.


In one squadron, a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze and presented them to his unit. One young pilot placed the medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore about his neck. Shortly after acquiring the medallion, the pilot's aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire. He was forced to land behind enemy lines and was immediately captured by a German patrol. In order to discourage his escape, the Germans took all of his personal identification except for the small leather pouch around his neck.


In the meantime, he was taken to a small French town near the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment one night, he escaped. However, he was without personal identification. He succeeded in avoiding German patrols by donning civilian attire and reached the front lines. With great difficulty, he crossed no-man's land. Eventually, he stumbled onto a French outpost.


Saboteurs had plagued the French in the sector. They sometimes masqueraded as civilians and wore civilian clothes. Not recognizing the young pilot's American accent, the French thought him to be a saboteur and made ready to execute him. He had no identification to prove his allegiance, but he did have his leather pouch containing the medallion. He showed the medallion to his would-be executioners and one of his French captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion. They delayed his execution long enough for him to confirm his identity.


Back at his squadron, it became tradition to ensure that all members carried their medallion or coin at all times. This was accomplished through challenge in the following manner: a challenger would ask to see the medallion, if the challenged could not produce a medallion, they were required to buy a drink of choice for the member who challenged them. If the challenged member produced a medallion, then the challenging member was required to pay for the drink. This tradition continued throughout the war and for many years after the war while surviving members of the squadron were still alive.


In today's service braces, Police, and first responder outfits we see the modern day challenge coin presented for achieving excellence, changes of command, reenlistment, and retirements just to name a few. Coins can be traditional round medallion like, or elaborate as creating a die-cast recreation of a US Air Craft Carrier that folds open to display unit and Chief pride. The limits really are time, and money when it comes to what you want created.

We at Anchors and Stars US only produce the caliber of coin that we are proud to pull out of our pockets, and display on coin racks for all to see. Please click the button below to contact and begin you coin creation process.

bottom of page