Rules of Coin Checks

ID cards are most commonly used in modern times as a sign of membership to clubs, companies, schools and organizations. ID cards are flat and usually not very interesting, however, and are generally only good for things like being able to get into the gym. 

But what if you belong to an elite club that only its members understand? For many in the armed services, police, firefighters and other organizations, the measure of membership is a challenge coin. 

Challenge coins were traditionally associated with the military. These beautiful coins gave you the bragging rights to membership to some of the most elite clubs. Challenge coins represent where their owners have visited, experiences they’ve had, the life they’ve led, and the lifelong friends they found along the way. 

A Brief History of Challenge Coins

There is a huge debate about the first appearance of challenge coins as we know them today. They are also known as “command coins,” and the widespread use of these coins can be traced back to Vietnam. However, they have been around in one form or another for much longer. Military historians debate about whether the coins emerged during WWI or WWII. 

The earliest predecessor to the coins is traced to ancient Rome, where soldiers were paid daily after a battle. Although they were paid in coins, the soldier who stood out in the battle was awarded an extra coin. Most of the coins were explicitly minted for various military units.

During WWI, a wealthy officer made bronze medallions for his flying squadron and gave them to his men, who would hang them on pouches around their necks. During the Korean War, Colonel William Wilson “Buffalo Bill” Quinn made challenge coins for his men. The coins had a buffalo on one side and the regiment’s insignia on the other. 

Today, challenge coins are used to honor certain units and deployments. Their purpose has evolved from exclusively military use to also including such civilian uses as corporations and motorcycle clubs. 

What Are the Rules of a “Coin Check”?

A coin check is a ceremony to identify other service members. Traditionally, the ceremony was used to help a service member connect with other members. Here are some rules of a coin check:

  • The coin check is initiated by slamming the coin on a hard surface. Other members respond by slamming down their coins.
  • If you fail to respond, you must answer a penalty.
  • If everyone responds to the coin check, the challenger is penalized.
  • Coin checks can be issued at any place or time.
  • Losing a coin or giving it away does not grant you immunity from coin checks.

If you have a challenge coin, ensure that it is always on you since you never know when the next challenge is. The rules always apply!

How Do You Care for Your Challenge Coin?

Whether you have an army challenge coin or one that commemorates a special achievement in your career, it needs to stay in its best shape so you can show it off for years to come. Here are a couple of things you need to know to keep challenge coins in good condition:

  • Direct sunlight is not good for your coin if it has paint on the exterior, so keep the coin away from sunlight.
  • Bleach is a powerful reagent on the coin. When washing the coins, avoid using bleach since it can damage the paint or finish on the coin.
  • Soak the coin in distilled water since it is gentle on the material. Soak the coin for a day, and gently rub it with a soft toothbrush. Place the coin back into the water to get rid of all grime.
  • Olive oil can also be used to clean the pesky spots. This process is slower and should only be used when no other method works. Soak the coin in the oil for a week and change the oil when it starts changing color. Subsequently, wash the coin with soap and water.

What Happens If You Lose Your Challenge Coin?

Challenge coins need to be kept on your person as much as possible, and especially whenever there is a better than average chance of a coin check occurring! 

There is no excuse for losing or giving away your challenge coin. Once you lose it, you need to replace it. In the meantime, you’ll be buying a lot of drinks for the other members. 



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