There is more to know than the mere level of significance challenge coins has imparted among members of the institution or company that has issued them. These coins, which you’d normally find around a couple of inches in diameter, have a lot more value than the coins that you may have been keeping in your purse to buy candies for your kids. They also hide a lot of mysteries that not many are really aware of, and these may have existed way before you were even born.
Your typical challenge coins may look like ordinary medals that are round in shape. However, many of today’s organizations have been producing them in various other shapes, many of which included pentagons, shields, and even dog tags. Most of these coins are created using materials such as copper, pewter, or nickel. The finishes of the coins may also vary, though the most common coins are gold plated. The design could be as simple as the organization’s logo with the moto surrounding it, to this, along with enamel highlights and even cut outs.
Challenge coins, as implied by the name, were once used by its holder to challenge one of the members of the organization he’s part of. The challenge begins usually inside the bar, where the challenger faces another organization member and shows his coin. If the challenged has no coin to present, he will be paying for the challenger’s beer, as well as other members who have their coins in their pockets. However, if the challenged, including other members around, have their coins to present, it will be the challenged who will pay for all the beers everyone is going to drink.
One of the most popular stories that focused on these challenge coins was the “secret handshake”, which involved Robert Gates, the United States Secretary of Defense. He went to the different military bases of the US in Afghanistan prior to his retirement. During his tour, a lot of people within the Armed Forces shook hands with him. Of course, most people would easily think this shaking of hands was a form of exchanging respect. Apparently, one of those whom he shook hands with received the challenge coin specifically given to Gates, which simple gesture turned out to be the secret handshake.
This secret handshake, though, was not performed to pass every challenge coin there is, though people have considered this a tradition. Some say that this originated from the 2nd Boer War, which was fought between South African and British colonists. The British acquired a lot of mercenaries, with no one being able to receive a medal of valor. Should accommodation be rewarded, it is only to be received by their commanding officer.
As stories told, many of these soldiers of fortune claim within the group that an officer awarded with the medal is not deserving, which became reason for them cutting the medal out from the ribbon while they sneak in that officer’s tent. At the time the public ceremony is held, they would then call the mercenary who deserves the medal forward and give it to him as an indirect recognition of his efforts.
Today, these challenge coins are used for different purposes. Members of the federal government, which includes the valets of the President and the staff of the White House, are each issued with a coin, which serves as a distinct way to recognize them as part of the system. One of the most interesting coins there is may be that from a military aide. These coins are shaped like a football, which may primarily be to signify that they hold the atomic football.