Challenge coins are a special type of commemorative coin that is awarded to an individual. They are popular with military members and sometimes they are given when you join an organization. There are also presidential challenge coins that have become collector's items.
How did challenge coins originate? There are a few different stories which we will summarize below.
The Roman Empire
Soldiers from the Roman Empire were given challenge coins for their accomplishments.
The Renaissance Period
During this time challenge coins were called "Portrait Medals". They were given out at important events to members of royalty or other important officials.
World War 1
Here is the most commonly told origin story. Essentially, there was one wealthy American lieutenant that gave out bronze medallions to his unit. There was a young pilot that stored the medallion in his pouch. At one point his plane crashed behind enemy lines in Germany and the Germans took away his personal identification.
He was able to wander over to a French outpost where the French then captured him. The French thought he was an enemy in disguise so they sent him off to be executed.
One of his captors recognized the squadron's sign on the medallion. His execution was then delayed and eventually he was able to prove his identity. When he arrived back with his unit, it became a tradition to produce the coin when asked. Soldiers were challenged to produce the coin. If you couldn't produce the coin then you owed the challenger a drink. If you could produce it then they had to buy the drink.
There are other origin stories out there but these three are the most popular.
The tradition of giving out challenge coins has spread to other branches of the military. They are also given out to members of congress and other government officials.
The prices vary greatly depending on whether you want a custom challenge coin or not.
Custom challenge coins will be expensive and the costs depend on multiple factors such as size, order quantity, country of origin and number of colors. A big factor is the design cost. In order to have a custom design you need to have a designer. Therefore the bigger your order, the lower the price per coin.
In addition there are different quality standards. You can have a zinc-alloy casting or you can have a die-struck metal mold. Die struck is much more expensive but the quality is also much better. We recommend going with a die struck mold.
Country of origin also factors greatly into the price. The coins manufactured in China and South Korea cost much less, around $2-7 each coin. However the design cost still has to be factored in.
So overall the price varies a lot for custom coins. You could pay anywhere from $3-$10 per coin.
For non-custom challenge coins the price will depend on the coin. The price will depend on the rarity, the quality, and the metal content. A new challenge coin without any precious metals content will retail for around $10-25. However for limited edition challenge coins the price can go much higher.
Where to Buy Challenge Coins
You can buy standard challenge coins or you can create you own custom coins. Learn about the different options below.
Military Challenge Coins
Ebay seems to have a good selection but like anything on eBay, you need to worry about fakes. The best place to buy presidential and military challenge coins is from the official White House Gift Shop. They have a wide selection of all the latest challenge coins and new coins are introduced on a regular bases. All of the coins come in nice cases, which adds to their collectability.
Buying from the US government also gives you the peace of mind that you are buying an authentic coin.
Any of these authentic coins will fit in nicely to anyone's coin collection. Free shipping is available on orders over $150.
Custom Challenge Coins
Coin Force is our top recommendation and it's the only company we will mention. Started in 2003, this company has created millions of custom challenge coins. Coin Force has a great reputation and what is unique about this business is that it's owned and operated by military veterans.
This company makes high quality coins. They use metal die molds, which are much better than the cheap rubber molds that some other companies use. They also use lead free paints so the paint doesn't flake off. These coins are built to last.
Coin Force does not list their prices. You can get a free no-obligation quote by filling out a form on their website.
Challenge coins are great items to either give or receive. They also make great gifts for coin collectors. Remember that if you plan on ordering custom challenge coins then it can be expensive. The best option to buy standard military and presidential challenge coins is from the US government via the White House Gift Shop.