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    

U.s. Dos Diplomatic Security High Threat Protection Iraq 2008 Challenge CoinNypd Firearms Range Bullet Challenge Coin Rare Nypd Brooklyn North Warrant Challenge CoinRare Black & Silver Nypd Avenue X Range Tilly Clown Challenge CoinNypd Challenge Coin Rare Silver Hate Crime Task Force Batman Dark KnightNypd Challenge Coin Qstf Queens South Task ForceNypd Metro Card Challenge Coin. Nypd Esu A - Team Challenge CoinRare Nypd Police Commissioner Challenge CoinUltra Rare Nypd Gold Bms Union Challenge CoinNypd License Division "the 2nd Amendment Challenge CoinRare Nypd Ave X Range Firearms Instructor Speer 9mm Luger Challenge CoinRare Nypd Patch 911 Logo Never Forget Challenge CoinRare Nypd Chief Of Department Challenge Coin Serialized W/ Plastic SleeveNypd Challenge CoinNypd Challenge Coin I.d CardNypd Central Robbery Squad Challenge CoinRare Nypd Transit Bureau Impact Underground Challenge CoinRare Nypd Occb Narcotics Manhattan North Challenge CoinDdg 112 Michael Murphy Navy Chief Cpo Challenge Coin Locked And Loaded DesignVq 3 Ironman Navy Chief Cpo Challenge Coin Nypd Ny Mets World Series Challenge CoinRare Nypd Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force Nyc 108 Challenge CoinNypd Challenge Coin 109 Pct SquadNypd Vs Fdny Fun City Bowl Coney Island Brooklyn Football Clown Challenge CoinRare Nypd Detective Borough Manhattan Night Watch Challenge CoinNypd Police Academy Patch Challenge CoinRare Nypd Civil Enforcement Unit Closing And Seizing Challenge CoinRare Nypd Original Aviation Unit Challenge CoinNypd Id Challenge Coin Rare Nypd 103 103rd Precinct Jamaica Devils Island Challenge CoinRare Nypd Gold Drivers Training Floyd Bennett Field Challenge CoinNypd Challenge Coin Rare Mayors Detail Intelligence Bureau Rare Nypd 25 25th Precinct Detective Squad Zombieland Challenge CoinRare Nypd Housing Police Emergency Rescue Challenge CoinRare Nypd Brooklyn North Warrant Squad Jaws Vfs Fugitive Challenge CoinCarrier Airwing Battleaxe Navy Chief Cpo Challenge CoinRare Nypd Detective Bureau Challenge CoinRare Nypd Counterterrorism Division Cbrne Team Skull Challenge CoinRare Nypd Occb Undercover Ghost Challenge CoinRare Nypd Midtown North Precinct 018 Uss Intrepid Challenge CoinNypd Esu A-team Challenge CoinNypd Police 44th Precinct Ny Yankees Breast Cancer Awareness Rare Challenge Coin23 Precinct Nypd Challenge Coin Nypd JordanRare Nypd 34 34th Precinct Washington Heights Knight Challenge CoinRare Nypd Pink 44 44th Precinct South Bronx Yankees Pinstripes Challenge CoinNypd Challenge Coin Occb Hostile TakeoverNypd 44th Precinct Detective Squad Yankee Symbol Challenge CoinRare Nypd Intel Executive Protection Unit Uniform Operations Unit Challenge CoinNypd Challenge Coin/chief Of OccbNavy Chief Cpo Mess Challenge CoinStar Trek Uss Enterprise Cvn 65 Coin Navy Chief Cpo Challenge CoinFairecon 3 Ironman Combo Cover Navy Chief Cpo Challenge CoinNypd License Division Original Challenge CoinRare Nypd Staten Island Warrant Squad Detective Bureau Fugitive Challenge CoinUss Shiloh Cg 67 Navy Chief Cpo Challenge CoinNavy Chief Cpo Challenge CoinNypd 3/4 Retirement Challenge CoinRare Nypd Occb Training Unit Bronx Brooklyn Knock Knock Challenge CoinRare Nypd Original 66 66th Police Car Rmp Challenge Coin