The Ultimate Guide To The Best Military Challenge Coins

From elaborate designs to secret handshakes, there is so much to know about the best military challenge coins.

And if you want to start collecting, or you’re just curious about where to start getting a challenge coin, there’s a lot of information on companies peddling coins out there.

One of the most important things to know is that these coins denote a unit membership or special action. These are not all considered equal. 

In the following post, we’ll look at how challenge coins got their name and how you can rank them.

Challenge Coin Basics

Challenge coins have a long military tradition, and maybe the most well-known tale of their origin is set in World War I. An American officer had some unique coins minted for his air squadron as a morale booster.

One of these pilots had the challenge coin in a pouch around his neck. He was shot down on a mission and captured by the Germans. He eventually escaped and was discovered by the French. Thinking the pilot was a German spy, the flyboy was able to avoid execution by his allies by producing his challenge coin.  

Traditionally, the challenge of the coin’s name refers to a drinking game. When unit members are present, one of them will tap the bar and say, “coin check!”

Everyone races to show their coins, and if someone doesn’t have it, then they have too but a round of drinks. But beware: if you issue a coin check and everyone can produce their coin, then you’re buying.

The Best Military Challenge Coins

You can find many types of military challenge coins here.  The coins are usually bronze, copper, or nickel and are usually two to three times the size of a quarter. More expensive coins can have gold plating. They also don’t have to be round but can have cut-outs and come in arrowhead, dog tag, or any number of shapes. 

Here are some things to consider when evaluating the value of a military challenge coin.

Is The Design Outstanding?

There are some really cool designs, from tiki idol bottle openers to Punisher logos and even “South Park” themed challenge coins. Design is key. 

Is There a Backstory?

A coin that signifies a meaningful event or comes from meeting a famous person (Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Barck Obama, and Donald Trump all have unique coins.) Also, coins commemorating a Medal of Honor recipient are generally sought after.

What Unit Is It From?

Here’s a simple top-to-bottom ranking of unit coins:

  1. Branch
  2. Divisional
  3. Battalion
  4. Company

Like many collectibles, the value of the challenge coin might have a lot to do with its uniqueness. A Navy dive team coin might have more significance than a Green Beret coin to some people.

Was It A Store Bought Coin?

A factor that occurs over and over when considering the best military challenge coins is was it bought at the local PX. If everyone has one of the coins that are too easy to acquire, then it stands to reason that there’s nothing more interesting about the coin than its significance to its owner. 

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