Can Civilians Own Challenge Coins?

Challenge coins are bestowed as rewards for those who have exemplified exceptional characteristics.

They also serve as tokens of membership in particular groups or as a recognition to celebrate one’s achievements.

But can they be given to civilians – people outside of an organization?

If you’re a leader of a certain organization or company, you might wonder whether challenge coins would be a good fit for your members or employees.

In this post, you’ll learn the basics of challenge coins and whether they can be given to civilians.

A Brief History of Challenge Coins

It’s nearly impossible to trace the definitive origins of challenge coins. One popular origin story dates back to Ancient Rome. It’s said that Roman soldiers were awarded coins that could be used as currency to purchase goods.

They were specially minted with a mark of the legion, prompting some men to hold onto their coins as souvenirs rather than spending them on wine or food.

Another widely cited origin story came from World War I when a wealthy German officer distributed bronze medallions to his men. One of the recipients kept his medallion in a pouch around his neck. During a critical situation, he used it to provide his identity to French allies, thus sparing his life.

These medallions began gaining traction during the Vietnam War when the Special Forces units received them to enhance camaraderie. Even the highest offices in the United States embraced challenge coins.

Presidents, beginning with Bill Clinton, have their own memento coins – one commemorating the administration, one for the inauguration, and one for the general public to purchase.

What Are the Different Types of Challenge Coins?

Beyond military challenge coins, many organizations are getting in on the tradition. Nowadays, it’s common for police, fire departments, and EMS teams to have their own coins.


Police coins are a symbol of dedication, bravery, and professionalism upheld by law enforcement personnel. Often working in dangerous conditions, these medallions are a form of recognition of the commitment beyond the call of duty.

Their design features the agency’s emblem and motto. These coins may also commemorate special events such as promotions, retirements, and other significant milestones.


Firefighter coins are a fitting way to display gratitude to the firefighters and first responders who keep us safe. These brave men and women selflessly put their lives on the line to protect the lives and property of our communities.

EMS Challenge Coins

EMS coins are custom-designed medallions awarded to emergency medical workers such as paramedics, dispatchers, and EMTs to honor their bravery and service.

Sometimes, they can be given to students who’ve shown excellence in the classroom, with hands-on skills, and for being a leader. They feature specific designs, such as an ambulance or medical symbol.

What Does It Mean To Be Given a Challenge Coin?

Being given a challenge coin should be viewed as a badge of honor. These small medallions bear an organization’s emblem and are carried by members, proving that you uphold the standards necessary to join the group.

You could also be awarded a custom challenge coin for performing a commendable service or recognized actions that had a positive impact. They’re given with respect and honor, so it’s a good idea to cherish or properly display any custom coins you’ve been graced with.


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What Are Challenge Coins Used For?

Challenge coins have evolved from military significance to allegiance and accomplishment to many organizations.

As mentioned, they’re no longer exclusive to the armed forces and now extend to many other fields.

Schools, businesses, and organizations can use them to recognize members for their achievements and service. Companies award them to employees who have completed rigorous training, promoted to a new position, or recognized for their dedication and hard work.

In terms of the military, they can also be used as a secret code among military units. They’re printed with different service insignias so that each military branch can be recognized. Also, they can symbolize the rank within the service and the years served.

Besides recognition and belonging, these coins tell a unique story, not just about their recipients but also about the organization. It’s highly sought after by collectors since they’re custom designed. Challenge coins carry a piece of history with them.

That’s why collectors are intrigued by the stories behind each coin, allowing them to connect with the past and preserve a tangible link to historical moments. Some coins hold much monetary value, especially ones made in previous eras, like World War I or II.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if Someone Gives You A Challenge Coin?

A challenge coin is given as a token of recognition and camaraderie. It serves as a rite of passage, signifying that you belong to a certain group. They can also be given to people who’ve demonstrated heroic actions or accomplished a great achievement.

Can Anyone Own A Challenge Coin?

Yes, anyone can own a challenge coin. While they’re often issued to military personnel, anyone can be given a challenge coin. Most commonly, normal people receive them for joining a specific organization. For example, Boy Scouts of America will award Eagle Scouts with challenge coins to honor their achievement.

Final Thoughts

Challenge coins are a highly collectible and long-lasting way to show your allegiance anytime, anyplace.

Receiving these coins is seen as a token of appreciation and a badge of honor. Throughout history, these custom coins have been treasured and passed on to future generations. Creating your own challenge coin is a great way to immortalize an event and reinforce those meaningful connections in your group. The good news is you don’t need fancy equipment or artistic skills to make them.

The/Studio offers custom challenge coin manufacturing. All we need is a simple image from the internet, and we can turn your ideas into a challenge coin that your members will cherish for a lifetime. Speak with our team or use our online tool to create your challenge coins today.



Get started with your design today!

Why wait? Select your options, share your artwork, and we’ll get you started on your custom products.


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