THE CHALLENGE COIN TRADITION
Members of the U.S. military have a long-standing tradition of carrying a special coin symbolizing unit identity and esprit de corps. With bonds forged in battle thousands of miles from home, these custom coins minted for military units – each bearing their own revered symbols and mottos – capture in metal the essence of their affiliation and their fierce pride. Known to generations of American military personnel as challenge coins, they are a vital part of military life today and are revered by troops in every branch of service.
Today, challenge coins are carried by soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, as well as lawmen and firefighters. These coins identify the bearer as a member of a particular unit with a well-defined history and mission. And, wherever warriors gather, they challenge each other by “coining.” The group’s unique coin is slammed on a bar to challenge all in the group to display their own coins; he who is last must pay a penalty.
Variants of the rules include, but are not limited to, the following: If someone is able to steal a challenge coin, everyone in the group must buy a drink for that person. During a challenge, everyone in the group must buy a drink for the holder of the highest-ranking coin. A coin presented to a low rank, by a high rank, (i.e.: Admiral) trumps all low rank coins in a challenge. Traditionally, the presentation of a coin is passed during a handshake. Some units provide strict time limits to respond to a challenge.