Once associated exclusively with the military and given to recognize special achievement, challenge coins have grown to become collected by people to show affiliation with an organization or membership in a group.

Specially designed, challenge coins are small and usually fit into the palm of your hand. Most challenge coins have an emblem on one side that represents an organization. The other side may contain a slogan or another creative image emblematic of the organization.

KRUDO Knives has created challenge coins available for members of the KRUDO Nation.

Origins of Challenge Coins

Today’s challenge coin is about the size of a half dollar, according to the member forums of the American Numismatic Association. In the military, they typically carry the insignia and motto of a military unit. They may symbolize membership or function as “a talisman of achievement.”

Stories differ about the origin of challenge coins. Some believe they started in the Boer War. Others say the U.S. military started using challenge coins in World War I. Others peg the start to the Vietnam War, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

What’s clear is that in recent years, challenge coins have moved from the military world to first responders and even the business world. Corporate coins have become a trend in recent years, with companies rewarding employees with challenge coins for work-related achievements. More businesses, especially those with unique products and a strong customer base, have also issued challenge coins.

How Are Challenge Coins Used?

In the military, unit commanders awarded challenge coins to those who distinguished themselves in some way. Not everyone in a unit receives a challenge coin, only those who excel and achieve.

“They’ve been an American military tradition for a century, meant to instill unit pride, improve esprit de corps and reward hard work and excellence,” the Department of Defense wrote.

Law enforcement and other first responders also use challenge coins in this way, honoring those who have special accomplishments in the line of duty.

Corporate Coins

That same principle of honoring and recognizing special achievement also applies to corporate coins. Business leaders only give out a coin to employees they hold in high regard. Typically, these employees have made contributions that had a significant impact on business success. Executives may also honor senior employees who reach a milestone for years.

The latest trend in challenge coins sees them as symbols of members in a group or organization. The coins allow people to identify themselves as members of an organization or a group.

The other common characteristic of challenge coins is that they are unique. They have their own special designs and often feature mottos or sayings that only those in the know completely understand or that evoke a certain outlook on life.

What started as a way to honor and identify servicemembers has grown into a cool way to show affiliation. With the endless possibilities, expect challenge coins to continue to create lasting bonds and connections for those who carry them.