Challenge coins are small medals or tokens that are given in recognition of great service, perseverance through hardship, or acts of heroism. They are usually presented by the head of a group or organization, and to receive one is a great honor.
To many, the coin symbolizes their pride in their achievements and all the trials they had to overcome. For collectors, coins can be a way to remember and honor heroic people or actions of years past.
How Much Are Custom Challenge Coins Worth?
It may surprise some people to learn that a challenge coin is not an actual type of currency. They don’t represent a real monetary value and can’t be used as money. While some have become valuable collectibles, the true value of the coin isn’t its monetary worth.
As any coin recipient can tell you, the real value comes from what the coin represents. Organizations throughout history have used challenge coins to reward and recognize valor or great achievements. Receiving a coin is a great honor and recognition – one usually bestowed by the leader of an organization.
What Is the Purpose of Personalized Challenge Coins?
Many organizations use challenge coins for leaders to recognize and reward achievement at all levels within their organization. This practice is most common in organizations that use a rank structure, such as the military, the police, firefighters, and even government offices.
Before ID cards, many of these groups originally used a challenge coin as proof of membership. Now, they’re usually only carried by the organization’s leadership and a few worthy recipients. The coins are often engraved with designs that are specifically meaningful to that organization.
For example, military units often have their own coin bearing the unit insignia, motto, or an important date. The commander of the unit is usually responsible for deciding who has earned a coin, as well as presenting the coin to the recipient. Not a bad job!
Commanders often present a coin by holding it in their palm and passing it to the recipient during a handshake. Receiving a commander’s coin is a high honor; it not only recognizes an achievement but also symbolizes the commander’s trust and faith in the recipient.
Coin recipients can also be “coin checked” at any time. In a coin check, the recipient must show that they’re always carrying their coin. They may also be expected to recite something that a representative of the organization should know, such as the motto or central tenants.
How Much Are Collectible Challenge Coins Worth?
There are several theories on the origin of challenge coins, but examples date as far back as the armies of ancient Rome. The oldest known challenge coin in US military history is the 17th Infantry Regiment “Buffalo” coin, which dates back to the 1950s. Like many pieces of military memorabilia, historic challenge coins are now often seen as collectibles.
As with most collectibles, value is often driven by rarity and age. Coins linked to major events, such as the Vietnam War or the Cold War, are also seen as highly valuable. One of the most famous Cold War coins, the Checkpoint Charlie, was sold on eBay for $2,750.
Assessing the Value of a Military Challenge Coin
For collectors, there are several factors that influence the value of a military challenge coin. Here’s what you should consider if you’re looking to buy and sell challenge coins:
The production of challenge coins is entirely unregulated, leaving it to the creator to decide how many coins they want to be pressed. Some military commanders bestowed hundreds of coins over many years; others only gave out a select few.
This means that rarity is a major factor in collectible coin value. Generally speaking, the older the event, the more rare and valuable the coin.
Some coins were made to represent an entire unit, while others commemorate distinct operations and battles. The latter tends to be more valuable due to its specificity.
- Sentimental Value
Sentimental value is a significant factor in the world of collectibles. Buyers are always willing to pay more for something that holds personal meaning to them. On the flip side, a seller may need more monetary incentive to part with something so important to them.
Some coins have been on journeys of their own. While mint-condition coins are usually considered more valuable, the right collector might be willing to spend a lot on a coin with a few battle scars.
Challenge coins are a time-honored tradition. They’re a great way for leaders to recognize their people’s achievements and to build morale within an organization. They foster a sense of belonging and pride.
The/Studio can help you carry on this tradition in your own organization. We can help you design and create customized coins that may one day be part of history. Who knows – maybe one day your coin will become a collectible!