The concept of a “challenge coin” has been around for the better part of a generation, though will be unfamiliar to many outside of military circles.
More of a “token” than a coin, these pieces were originally the size of a typical municipal trade token, although in recent times have grown to be as large as 45mm or so in diameter, with much more detail given to aesthetics in terms of design and, frequently, colourization.
Essentially, a Challenge Coin was produced as both a good-luck pocket-piece as well as – even more importantly – a personalized symbol of fraternity within a specific regiment, core, or on a more macro scale, branch of the Armed Forces. Usually with a crest/design unique to that particular affiliation, these tokens also were regularly engraved with the recipient’s own personalized serial number in order to encourage responsibility to, and care for, his or her own token.
Beyond this affiliation and possibly aesthetic draw, however, is a very practical and potentially expensive element of the Challenge Token, from which the tradition actually gets its name. In a nutshell, each service member is obligated to have the token on him/her at all times, and if ever “challenged” to produce the piece at the company mess tent/bar and fails to do so, it becomes the delinquent’s obligation to buy a round for all those present. Conversely, if one is challenged to produce a Challenge Coin and is able to do so, the obligation to quench the thirst of his present colleagues then falls onto the shoulders of the challenger. As such, you may be hard pressed to find a member of our Armed Forces caught without his or her Challenge Coin in pocket, and – as a result – they make especially challenging items to locate and collect by non-members.
The stunning 44mm Challenge Coin pictured here is both newly-discovered as well as unique. Rather than being affiliated with a particular regiment/branch of the Armed Forces, this piece was issued by the venerable Order of St. George here in Canada.
Like most Challenge Coins, however, it bears the unique serial number attached to its recipient. And what makes this particular piece even more treasured and unique? It belongs to me. Stay tuned…