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Original Militaria Challenge Coins (2001–Present)

Coveted by military personnel, the challenge coin is an enduring symbol of participation and inclusion. When carried, these ornate medallions signify membership in an elite military organization. They’re often handed out in special circumstances by an officer or commander.

What’s the history and meaning behind challenge coins?

Millenia ago, soldiers of the Imperial Roman military would receive special coins in tandem with their usual pay. These coins were sometimes awarded by the Roman Empire to soldiers for outstanding achievements. Other coins were doled out for proof of inclusion in an elite military group. Much later, a flying ace in World War I had his life saved because of his challenge coin. Escaping from German captivity, he made it to France. However, the French believed he was a spy and wanted to kill him. The ace presented his challenge coin, which a French soldier recognized, and his life was spared. He later returned to his unit on the front.

What are some examples of military challenge coins?

Military challenge coins are handed out to members of different armed forces units in the United States. Some coins are common, while others are rare. There are myriad versions of challenge coins for each branch of military service. These include the following examples:

  • Army: 100 Years 82nd Airborne Coin: This challenge coin celebrates the centennial anniversary of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. This elite airborne division is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It has an extensive combat track record that ranges from World War I to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The coin has wings and “AA” on one side. The other side has a red band and text encircling the center, which commemorates all the theaters of war.
  • Navy: Submariners Silent Service Coin: This challenge coin gives a shout-out to the murky depths of submariners. Silent and stealthy, these Navy men act as an essential part of the American nuclear triad. One side of this coin displays an italicized “Silent Service” logo. The other sports stylized engravings of submarines with sea creatures underneath the words “Submarine Warfare.”
  • Marine Corps: Semper Fi: Serving as a testament to the die-hard loyalty of the Marines, this challenge coin has a hardcore design. One side of the coin features a red-winged skull and displays the motto of the USMC, “Semper Fi.” Below, the words “Death Before Dishonor” are displayed. The other side has the eagle-and-globe logo in silver, along with the words, “The Few, The Proud.”
  • Air Force: Missile Defense: A black and silver coin, this challenge coin represents the brave service members manning American nuclear silos. As displayed on one side, this is a “Missileman Badge.” In the center of both sides is a design of an American nuclear missile wielded by the Air Force. The types listed include: Atlas, Titan, Minuteman, Peacekeeper, Matador, Mace, and GLCM.
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