What Does It Mean To Be Given a Challenge Coin?

Humans have sought to honor or commemorate other humans or events for thousands of years. The Egyptians built the breathtaking pyramids, while the Romans had their Vexillum – or flag or banner – sometimes given in much smaller forms to individual soldiers.

Challenge coins work similarly and act as a more modern example of immortalizing an event or person, often seen in the military, first responder units, or at sporting events.

A Brief History of Challenge Coins

Challenge coins are not new, with the earliest examples coming from the Roman era. For nearly a millennia, Romans dominated, first in the boot shape we now call Italy, then around Europe and into Northern Africa. This bold expansion saw its Legionnaires become almost mythical as their famed fighting style saw them crush all before them.

With such success under their belt, Roman commanders felt it essential to recognize their soldiers’ extraordinary work. Unique coins were often made and given to legionnaires who had participated in successful campaigns. It helped boost morale and instill a sense of purpose in these warriors who could be away from home for years at a time.

However, it wasn’t just the Roman legionnaires who got their hands on challenge coins. During the Renaissance, upper-class families often commissioned coins that depicted a portrait on one side and a family insignia on the other – usually given to commemorate incredible feats or celebrate special occasions.

Why Would Someone Give You a Challenge Coin?


The most common reason you might receive a challenge coin is to represent the membership to a particular organization. This is common within the military, where units often have different types of coins that act as proof of membership or participation in a specific battle or war.

As mentioned, coins like this go back to the Romans but became particularly common during the 20th Century, with coins frequently created for actions during the First and Second World Wars. Challenge coins are often associated with elite groups, such as the Seals and the SAS, but they have appeared across almost all sections of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.


A challenge coin sometimes commemorates the actions of a particular person, acting as an award as such – though members of the military would look upon it more as a mark of respect rather than an award per se. It is about recognizing that somebody has gone above and beyond, well above the call of duty.


Often, coins don’t honor a single person but rather commemorate a significant event that several – perhaps even thousands – took part in. A good example is the D-Day commemorative coins still produced, which go into widespread circulation as the common currency.

However, most challenge coins are not legal tender but act as a cherished reminder of a particular action. It’s traditional for U.S Presidents to have their own challenge coins created while they’re in office, and visitors are sometimes given these on visits to the White House.


Today, we increasingly see challenge coins with logos or messages used as business branding platforms – sometimes given out at conferences, sales events, or trade shows to commemorate the event and promote a company. Schools, colleges, and sports organizations are also getting in on the act, and their challenge coins may appear at local events or games.


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What Does It Mean To Be Given a Challenge Coin?

We could argue that the symbolic meaning is fading away with the increased number of challenge coins having a branding message rather than anything genuinely significant. However, it really depends on what kind of challenge coin somebody gives you.

Let’s be perfectly honest – if you’re given a Facebook or Google challenge coin at an event, it might be neat for a short while, but it won’t hold particular value to you for long. Companies create thousands in one go, and being given one doesn’t mean much.

However, if you are given a challenge coin for something genuinely unique, either as membership, an award, or to commemorate an event, this should become a treasured item. To be given a challenge coin has traditionally been a great honor. While it might not necessarily have the same weight today, the person who gave it to you probably sees it as something hugely important.

Where Can I Get a Challenge Coin?

Want to design and make your own challenge coin to commemorate a special event or membership to a particular group? Creating a challenge coin has never been easier, and with The/Studio’s custom challenge coin service, you can create your own design and have our specialists add the finishing touches before we mint it and send it back to you. Quick, easy – something that somebody will remember forever.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It an Honor To Receive a Challenge Coin?

It depends on what the coin is honoring, but traditionally, receiving a challenge coin was always considered a great honor. For the military and first responders, it remains hugely influential and symbolic.

Final Thoughts

Considering much of our world is increasingly found online, there’s something special about holding a unique and symbolic item in your hand. Challenge coins are an excellent way to show somebody that they’ve gone further than expected or that they belong to a group with a bond that will last much longer than the physical proximity that often fades away.

Creating a challenge coin with The/Studiois a heartfelt and poignant way of saying well done, you’re part of the team, or celebrating a significant event. Words fade into memory. A challenge coin will last significantly longer than any of us will.


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