In a widely reported but probably apocryphal story, challenge coins got their start during World War I, when an American pilot, who had been shot down over France and lost his dog tags, was able to prove his Allied affiliation to French soldiers on the lookout for German spies by showing them a bronze medal made by a wealthy Army Air Service lieutenant.

The more likely origin of the challenge coin, though, dates to the 1960s, when a serviceman in the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne) overstruck old U.S. coins with the group’s emblem, and passed them out to other members of the unit. The practice was soon picked up by other units and was used primarily as a drinking game, in which members of the unit who were not able to produce a coin when challenged were obliged to buy everyone a round of drinks.

In the decades that followed, challenge coins became a part of military culture—by some estimates more than 10,000 issues have been minted. At the low end of the spectrum are coins produced for lieutenant colonels and sergeant majors in the Army, who pass them out to troops as small tokens, literally, of appreciation. Coins produced for officers of higher rank are more difficult to come by, although challenge coins have been sold in military gift shops since Operation Desert Storm in 1990, so in that sense most are not rare.

Among the most sought challenge coins are those given by the president and vice-president. Reportedly, President Clinton had a case filled with his challenge-coin collection on display in the Oval Office. Challenge coins have also been minted for employees of the CIA and NSA, although, for obvious reasons, they are not used as official evidence of the holder’s employment in either government agency.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Home to the Society of U.S. Pattern collectors, this well-organized site provides in-depth information on pattern c… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Ice Immigration Customs Enforcement New York Office Coin Nypd Dhs U.s. Military Springfield 1903 Rifle With Stock HardwareChief Petty Officer Challenge CoinIce Police Challenge Coin New York New Jersey Nypd Task Force RareMsg Marine Security Guard Bujumbura Burundi 2" American Embassy Challenge CoinCnsg Midpac Fy-13 Chief Petty Officer Challenge/induction CoinLot Of 28 Usmc Usaf Usn Us Army Challenge Coins Oif Oef Iraq AfghanistanUss Independence Lcs-2 Cpo Challenge CoinNavy Cpo A Fine Navy Chief Vessel CoinPortland Oregon Police Challenge Coin, Motor Unit / Motorcycle OfficerAmazing 2" Cutout Airborne Special Forces Challenge Coin!! Very Rare Coin. Chief Petty Officer Challenge CoinUss Mcfaul Ddg-74 Trident Chief Petty Officer Challenge Coin, U.s. NavyUnited States Cyber Command (uscybercom) Joint Operations Center Challenge CoinUs Military Challenge Coin Token LotRhode Island State Police 2 Inch Trooper Challenge CoinNavy Region Hawaii Chief Petty Officer Challenge CoinPolice Challenge Coin Us Marshal Ny/nj Ice Fugitive Task Force Rare Riot ShieldLot Of 47 Military Challenge Coins (generals, Sf, Warrant Offficer, Airborne)Tiki Hut Navy Cpo The Fouled Anchor Chief CoinUss Constitution Cpo CoinAustralian Federal Police New York Challenge Coin Authentic Fbi CiaIce New York/new Jersey Fugitive Task Force Nypd MarshalsUss Chief Mcm-14 Chief Petty Officer Challenge CoinFlorida Highway Patrol Fhp Police Challenge CoinNew York State Police 100th Anniversary Challenge Coin With C.o.a.Fbi New York Joint Terrorism Task Force Coin Jttf Nypd Cia DojFbi Directorate Of Intelligence (di) Challenge Coin - Doj OfficialUss Crommelin Ffg-37 Chief Petty Officer Challenge CoinNew South Wales Anti Terrorism Special Tactics Police Challenge Coin AustraliaDenver Police Department Homicide Unit Police Challenge Coin Nice U.s. Navy Door Hatch Cpo Ask The Chief 2.5" Challenge Coin Tons Of DetailBorder Patrol 85th Anniversary Coin And Badge SetExceptionally Rare Cia Budapest Magyar Koztarsasag Operations Challenge Coin Blackwater Challenge CoinUs Navy Uss Ronald Reagan Cpo Mess Challenge Coin!National Canine Facility Us Border Patrol Trooper Challenge Coin K-9 Cut OutInterpol Washington Headquarters Ncb Challenge Coin Authentic Fbi CiaUss Constitution Chief's Mess Challenge CoinCentral Eurasia Cia Directorate Of Operations Clandestine Service Challenge CoinChallenge Coin Grab Bag 15 Different Coins! Uss Port Royal Cg-73 Chief Petty Officer Challenge CoinRare Dea Challenge Coin - Drug Enforcement AdministrationRare Dea Operation Opbat Bahamas Police Challenge Coin!!The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Nga Challenge CoinUss Michael Michael Murphy Ddg-112 Cpo Challenge CoinUsss Secret Service Challenge Coin 2014 Un United Nations General Assembly 69 NyShip Forged From World Trade Center, Uss New York, Lph-21 / Chiefs Mess Badge Shaped Challenge Coin Us Ice Officer Ny/nj Regional Fugitive Task Force UJoint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (jsotf-p) Non-cpo Rare CoinFlorida Highway Patrol Training Academy Challenge Coin....Uss Ford Pre Commissioning Cpo Chief Mess Challenge Coin Cvn 78 First In ClassTf Liberty Border Patrol Coin Usbp Cbp Dhs Dea Atf FbiRare Dea Honolulu District Office Police Challenge Coin!!Navy Special Warfare Unit Two Serial #092 Seal Teams Navy Challenge Coin RareNavy Cpo Ask The Chief Chosen Few CoinMilitary Navy Seals Original Seals Trident, Worn, Earned, Not Bought.San Bernardino County Sheriff Fontana Station Police Challenge Coin Nr ! Dealers Lot 4 Original Us Army Lt General Staff G8 Pentagon Challenge CoinNew Aurora Colorado Challenge Coin 2" Diamond Cut Edges