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Military Challenge Coins: Decoding the symbol of Honour and Bravery

Military Challenge Coins: Decoding the symbol of Honour and Bravery

You would certainly understand the meaning of honour by the truest sense of the word if any of your family members has been a part of military services. Serving your nation by being a part of the military is not something that all fascinates. This is simply due to the immense amount of ordeal and stern test of character associated with it.

Military challenge coins are designed in a remarkable fashion as they carry a very noteworthy image… The coin is presented to someone as a mark of respect and honour for their contribution. A challenge coin can also be given to confirm their membership in a group or organization.

The coins sustain the real dignity of the military life and its services. It instils relentless pride to the ones who are carrying it. 

Members of armed forces have a traditional history of carrying military challenge coins that fosters brotherhood and unity. It symbolizes the identity of the unit they are incorporated to. Each challenge coin bears the motto of the unit that they represent.


The philosophy of challenge coins has its historical roots. The concept of it was born around a hundred years ago. An incident occurred around World War 1 that gave birth to it. The incident revolves around an American fighter pilot who was shot and ordained to land with his airship in the infamous German territory. This pilot was held captive in a detention facility. The American however managed to escape the detention camp after it was attacked by the British counterparts.

After escape he was confronted and detained by the French soldiers who mistook his identity as German. At the behest of this the American presented his challenge coin marked with the American’s Unit insignia. The French officers immediately recognized that he was an ally and decided to release him. Thus the legendary of the military challenge coins grew thereafter.

The motive behind providing challenge coins

Challenge coins are used on many grounds. Some basic purposes of the challenge coins are:

  • Membership- In military ranks, challenge coins serve as proof of membership. It indicates membership of the unit. Military challenge coins were used for security purposes if you look at early military history.
  • Sign of recognition and award- Challenge coins are used to award team members for their contribution. It is a mark of excellent performance. It fosters morale and pride.
  • Symbolises bonding and oneness- The coins have served as a symbol of unity and in this unity lies its identity. This promotes brotherhood and unity among the members. Veteran officers display these coins in public gatherings years after their retirement.

Military challenge coins were most popularly presented by unit commanders. In recent times challenge coins have become a mark of cultural attributes. During the Renaissance challenge coins were referred to as “Portrait Medals”.

As the legend goes, that Roman Emperors used to award challenge coins to their gladiators. The invention of challenge coins have also been attributed to the post Korean conflict era.

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