Challenge Coins | What is a Challenge coin | Why do people make Custom Challenge coins
Historically Challenge Coins were simple, they were small and easy to carry, with no real thought as for design. Made from metal, A challenge coin is a, often shaped like a coin but which can be any shape. It’s the meaning behind the metal that makes it so much more than the metal that it is made from. It’s a bond of brothers and family, one that you choose and not born into. A Challenge Coin is a representation of memory be it your unit, command, event or the individual that slapped it into your hand. Originally pilots used them as ways of uniquely identifying members of their own unit when they went down under fire, but as time has passed all branches of service have adopted the tradition. Today, not only does the Military use Challenge Coins, but it has spread into the civilian population, into corporate America not to mention all the fire departments, police officers, government and Charity Organizations that make Custom Coins any number of purposes.
The Challenge Coins Were so much simpler than the ones of today, the standard Round challenge coin was only 1.75 inches in diameter and would be 2D and have a total thickness of 3mm if you were lucky. The designs were very straightforward, the Navy Crest or an Officers Rank and along with their name, unit emblem, and perhaps an inspirational statement or quote. The Command Coins were the made from the same pattern, small round and flat, the colors would be limited and would have the commands unit patch one side and something simple on the other. Perhaps the Command name and aircraft or ship image to finish the design. Today more thought goes into what shape the coin is going to be then what the entire design used to be.
A Challenge Coin should tell a story about an event, a company or a person.
A challenge coin is unique and should be limited in production. It should tell a story; a story not only about the organization but also about the person who received it and the person who made it. It’s the story behind a coin that makes it a true challenge coin. Something that is just designed and pushed into mass production without any real story or emotional connection isn’t a challenge coin. It’s just a piece of metal. Challenge Coins are designed and made to bring units together, expand your reach and help build those bonds of friendship and brotherhood.
Challenge Coins have been designed for specific award achievements and memorial dedications. In the Military, Commanding Officers have personal challenge coins that they hand out to Soldiers for Jobs well done. Sometimes that quick moment, a handshake and a Challenge coin and change the direction of a young Soldiers Career. In the Navy Sailors of the Year are given Special Custom Challenge Coins signifying that they were selected. Senior Ranking Officers such as the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy has his own special custom challenge coin that he has designed that is coveted by Sailors.
Challenge Coins can be made and Sold for fundraising activities, from events as simple as virtual 5K Medals to selling Challenge Coins online to fund a gala or Military Ball, like the Marine Corps Birthday ball or the Navy Birthday Ball. Fundraising with custom challenge coins is really simple!
Challenge coins are exploding, they are popping up everywhere online. They have been a standard in the military and first responder communities forever; however, the last five years we have seen a huge influx into mainstream culture. Why wouldn’t they take hold in the mainstream world? Knowing how much a coin can impact the morale of your employees, it almost seems silly not progressing towards having your own. I’m a collector at heart and have in my collection close to 4k challenge coins but I can vividly remember the first time I had a Command Master Chief give me his personal coin. As I look back on my Career, I can’t remember any of the times I was awarded a personal award with the same fondness. Maybe it’s because an award is a piece of paper and a medal that I rarely wear, or maybe it’s because that Challenge Coin I palmed had story to it.
Challenge Coins | The Tradition | The History | Rules
Traditionally, challenge coins are passed from one person to the other via a handshake. This acting of Palming is timeless. It’s a form of showing respect, shaking hands while handing off something special without the world around knowing what’s going on. Most times, when done right the person palmed, will slide the challenge coin into his or her pocket and look at it away from the public eye.
Challenge Coin Rules
Let’s kick this off with a bang! Oh wait, I meant to say Beer! Yep I really meant Beer! When we start hitting the Challenge Coin rules and Games we are going to jump directly into the drinking games! So you find yourself a Christmas Party, or a Bar and someone pulls out a Challenge Coin and starts to perform a Coin Check. Wait what the hell is a Coin Check… Alright, let’s back up a bit. They are simply tracking down who is buying the next round of drinks. If they haven’t checked the area well enough it might even be them!
From here on its really easy, just whip out your coin and slam it down on the bar or table. First things first does everyone at the bar have one? Yep! Perfect now things can get a little dicey! There are different views on what happens next, in my neck of the woods, if you pull a coin check and everyone has a coin…. Your buying a round. If you’re with a Chiefs Mess and you pull a Coin check and you do not have a Chiefs Coin, oh brother your in for a long night of buying drinks…. In other venues of the game, It may have to be the current command or unity coin, sport team coin or it could be the lowest ranking coin has to buy drinks. However, in all capacities, If you do not have a challenge coin on you… YOU LOSE and have to buy drinks. Now if there are three losers in the group, you can have them split the round cost, or my favorite…… Have them buy 3 rounds. Coin Check preference. Building traditions is what the coin check is all about. A few words of wisdom from an old Senior Chief (who always has a Coin on him) Never, never, never, challenge a group US Navy Chief Petty Officers on a Coin Check. You will lose, not once or twice but we will follow you from bar to bar. IM sure you’ve heard the saying drunk like a Sailor, We are great at not having to pay for our beverages of choice when someone unknowingly coin checks one of us.
Important Challenge Coin Rules
Challenge coins can be used by friends and military members to challenge each other to a round of drinks. When one person pulls out their coin, each other person must show their coin, or buy drinks for the others. Let’s recap all the rules so you have them fresh in your mind. When someone calls for a coin check:
- Whip out your coin
- If someone doesn’t have a coin, they buy the drinks
- If more than one doesn’t, those people split or they buy more than one round Coin Checkers call.
- If all people have challenge coins, the coin checker buys
- So keep your coin with you all the time!!!
- Never, Never Challenge a group of US Navy Chiefs
Challenge Coin Styles
As mentioned the traditional challenge coin is a round shaped coin that is about 1.75” or 2” in diameter.
However, as challenge coins have gotten increasingly popular over time, people have had to differentiate their coins by getting increasingly creative in their designs. Now, coins feature any number of different shapes, from the recognizable to the non recognizable. Some coins also feature cutouts, which are holes within the coin that go clear through to the other side.
Another way people are making new challenge coins is by turning them into bottle openers and thus keeping going the proud military tradition of drinking beer. We can fit bottle openers into a variety of different shapes and placements in order to get creative as well.
Military Challenge Coins | Different Branches have Unique and Cool Features
Lets be honest, even with Challenge Coins moving more mainstream, they are still widely associated with the military. Each branch is known for its specific styling of service coin. In the following sections we can dig into what makes Custom Military Challenge Coins difference from the civilian counterparts; as well as, what makes them unique to the branches as well. Custom Challenge Coins are super diverse and military coins even more so!
Navy Challenge Coins
Navy Challenge Coins, Davey Jones and Krakens! Sailor Jerry Custom Coins and ship wheel cutouts. There isn’t much that can’t and hasn’t been done on a Navy Challenge Coin! Their style is amazing and so diverse! Inside the Navy you can find different regions have distinct characteristics in challenge coins making them a collector’s paradise or if your worried about your collection getting too large a money pit as well. Some of the more well know styles of Navy Challenge coins are as follows:
- Challenge coins shaped like ships; submarines and aircraft carriers. These can be really cool 3D coins, but you have to work on tying in the back of the design to the front to make sure it’s a smooth transition.
- Squadron Challenge Coin; these have to be one of my favorite types of custom coins to design, they are awesome to design and come in so many different shapes. You can add things to them and really make them pop off the chart, bottle openers, golf ball markers and most squadron have cool animal mascots. Designing coins for VP-4, doesn’t sound crazy cool…. Designing custom challenge coins for the Skinny Dragons of VP-4 is awesome!
- Seal coins, enough said.
- Promotions and retirements coins. We just did a complete article on these type of coins check it out here at retirement challenge coins
- Navy Birthday Coins, these are always a blast to design and collect, from ticket ideas to simply awesomeness in a shipwheel!
Navy Chief Challenge Coins
A sub culture under US Navy Challenge coins is the entire world of the Chief Petty Officer Challenge Coin. Now for every command and unit in the Navy, there is a Chiefs Mess and that Chiefs mess has a Coin. These coins are the pinnacle of the Challenge Coin collectors world in the Us Navy. Each type of coin that has already been talked about has a subsection specific to the Chiefs Mess, the difference is that the Chiefs Coin has more detail. It holds more value than a standard command challenge coin because it was presented to that Sailor by his or her Chief for a specific great job. It is fairly easy to identify a Chiefs Mess Challenge Coin, it will have a US Navy Chief Anchor on it. It should have a gold FOULED anchor with the Silver USN. There are five Standard Anchors that you will find on todays Chief Coins. The Standard CPO anchor, the Senior Chief Anchor and the Master Chiefs Anchor. Then there is a Heritage Anchor, the Falling N some call it and then on Chief coins you will find a rare anchor with 3 stars.
Army Challenge Coins
Army units are almost certainly the most competitive when it comes to making the best looking challenge coins. The difficulty for them is that these coins will typically be handed out by senior officers of the unit, so they must remain professional. In this way, Army challenge coin designers work with us to make some of the coolest looking coins in very unique shapes in order to remain competitive and still look professional.
Among the many Army challenge coins we’ve designed are:
- Military Police
- Chemical Brigades
- Deployment coins
- Coins representing every kind of Army unit imaginable
Business Challenge Coins | Corporate Challenge Coins | Business Card Challenge Coins
We find that any sector that a large number of veterans means challenge coins will follow as well. Although veterans tend to go work in government after the military, many do go into business either at corporations or as self-starters like ourselves.
With businesses, the tried and seemingly still true method of leaving a client with your contact information is a business card. But the business card just gets thrown out by almost everyone or lost in the stack of hundreds of other business cards people have sitting in drawers and collecting dust.
For the modern business, we are selling challenge coins as great ways to leave a mark on an organization’s most important clients. Such coins typically include the company logo and any associated logo, along with their name, important symbols, and other important ideas. For example, we made a coin for a wealth management firm that featured a stock market bull and bear, while an insurance company made a coin to give out to their truck drivers, serving a useful purpose by helping to remind their truck drivers to drive safe.
Smaller companies can also make coins and would typically include contact information such as a phone number or email address, a website, and anything else important to what they do.
With a challenge coin business card, we have found that customers will not only hold onto and continue to see it as a reminder of future business but also share it with their friends. Although it is much more expensive than a normal business card, we find that they make great investments if you exercise care in who receives one.
Law Enforcement Challenge Coins | LEO Challenge Coins | First Responders Challenge Coins
Given the clear connection between the military and law enforcement, not only in similar duties but also with veterans who become police officers, you would expect to see lots of challenge coins as well. Although this is true, it is much more common among larger police departments and Federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, and Homeland Security.
Many Police departments have their own unit coins and trade them between themselves. They trade them during conventions; as well as, online on the different facebook groups dedicated to police challenge coins.
Federal Government law enforcement organizations love to make challenge coins, and given that they use them quite differently than anyone else does, they arguably come out looking among the funniest and interesting of all challenge coins. The New York Police Department has a wide variety of challenge coins that they design and trade. In fact, the NYPD Challenge coins may rival some Army units for their designs. NYPD coins have been using the Guardian of Galaxy tapes as of lately for the inspiration of design. NYPD challenge coins are pretty dang awesome and we have a few in our collection!
Firefighter Challenge Coins
Firefighters are, surprisingly, as into challenge coins as any military challenge coin aficionados are. Perhaps it is the friendly rivalry and competition between different shifts of a firehouse, or between different stations within the same fire district that drives firefighters to want to make the best challenge coins possible.
A couple things are almost ubiquitously found on fire department challenge coins: colors matching their firetruck, images of the firetruck and, less commonly, depictions of the firehouse or other structure related to the fire department. are also extremely careful when picking the right color on the final coin design, as we have numerous shades of red and picking the right one can be very difficult.
Mason Challenge Coins
A lot of people may not realize that Masonry is still an important part of our country’s history and even current culture, and freemason organizations remain strong and active throughout the country. With Mason’s, they also like to make challenge coins.
Arguably the most important things to Mason’s are their symbols which they use as guides and reminders for living a successful life. Another important part is their buildings or halls. We have made a number of Mason coins and the challenge with them is often getting the placement of symbols correct and adhering to a high degree of accuracy and craftsmanship when it comes to the details hidden within both.
With so much detail being needed, this is a perfect example of why our design process works to the benefit of our customers and to create the best outcome possible with our challenge coin designs. We work with our artists on our designs until our customers are completely satisfied with their design, to the point of perfection.
Challenge Coin Trading
Challenge Coin trading is alive and well these days. It transcends military branches, LEO, Firefighters and our Civilian counterparts! It’s a truly awesome part of the Hobby! Sailor and Soldiers alike meet up online and in person to trade challenge coins. They hunt down old units that remind them of times past, friends lost or shipmates out to sea. It brings people together and it keeps veterans interacting with each other outside of the service. Its amazing to go to these Coin events with all the retired and Active Duty Members doing more than swapping coins they are swapping stories and knowledge. Challenge coins bring people together!
Pitch and Rudder sponsor a Facebook Group called Coined, it’s an online group where we focus on the stories behind the challenge coin. Where did you get your badass CMC coin? Who was the first Skipper that Palmed you? How many times a month do you look through your Stache of personal coins and remember old friends? Coined isn’t about the metal, it’s about what makes the metal a coin. Check it out here at Coined
Dedicated to Honoring Veterans
Many big corporations are natural places for veterans to go work in, particularly if that corporation is in defense or aerospace or otherwise promotes veteran hiring for their skills. With veterans being such a big part of some of these corporations, people like them or others like sports teams love to honor veterans for service. Nonprofits and governments similarly honor veterans frequently with a challenge coin.
We believe that a military tradition such as challenge coins should remain closely tied to the military and veteran community, not only in order to make sure new challenge coins keep some kind of tradition with them, but also because we believe something so closely tied with the military should also support the livelihoods of former military members.
Every member of Pitch and Rudder is an Active Duty or Retired Service member.
Creating Custom Challenge Coins with Pitch and Rudder
Here at Pitch and Rudder, we really hope that over the last few mins as you read through the article you gained some new information on custom challenge coins. We hope that you can take this and all the other articles that we have written and apply them to your own custom coins and make them even better! We would love to work with you designing some Rockstar coins but ultimately we wanted to ensure that your next venture was done with just a few more tools!
Making custom quality challenge coins and Military belt buckles are one of our specialties. If you’re interested in getting a designing a custom buckle or Quality Challenge coin for your Division, Command, or Mess we’ve streamlined the process, click the get started link at the bottom of the page and someone from our design team will be with you within 48 hours to bring your vision to life. When your working with us, we want to be as transparent as possible if you’re looking for shirts, you are going to be working with Chuck’s and his Team, If you’re working with metal you will be working with Grady’s Team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, TERRY MAYNARD, CEO AND PRINCIPLE OWNER OF PITCH AND RUDDER LLC
Terry is a 22-year Veteran of the United States Navy, a Retired Senior Chief and a loving husband with four children. With 5 years’ experience designing, manufacturing and marketing Challenge Coins under his belt, it’s easy to see how his experience could help others hone their craft.