The Challenge Coin: Creative Currency for Associations

By: Cynthia E. Berry, Esq., Managing Director Civil Justice Reform Group (CJRG)

Challenge Coins

Cynthia E. Berry

One symbol of the bonding and camaraderie among members of the armed forces is the challenge coin – a medallion or coin that bears the insignia, motto, and/or colors that identify a particular unit or group. Traditionally, these coins are given to demonstrate membership and instill pride in those who carry them.

A familiar story about the “first” challenge coin involves an American fighter pilot who was shot down over enemy territory during World War I. He was captured by the Germans but eventually escaped. French soldiers later found him. Believing him to be a German, they planned to execute him on the spot. The American presented the French officer with the challenge coin he had received from his lieutenant prior to deployment. The officer immediately recognized the American unit’s insignia on the coin and spared the pilot’s life.

Today, challenge coins are routinely traded among military personnel. They also are presented to dignitaries as a sign of respect. If you walk into the office of a Member of Congress who serves on the Armed Services Committee or if you are lucky enough to find yourself in the Oval Office, you likely will see an impressive collection of challenge coins.

Borrowing from this time-honored military tradition, local police and firefighter units now design, present, and trade their own challenge coins. Private sector corporations have begun to embrace the custom as a way to reinforce a common purpose and identity and enhance morale among employees. For trade associations, a challenge coin could accomplish the same and more.

  • Why not distribute your unique coin to your members as a “thank you” for their commitment and participation? (It might be more cherished than a lapel pin that may be worn once, if at all, and tossed in a drawer.)
  • Why not use it to issue a membership recruitment challenge to your members? Ask each of them to give a coin to a prospective member as an invitation to join the association. (The gift will make the recipient feel like they have been asked to join a special group.)
  • Why not present the coin to honored guests and speakers at your association conferences as a “welcome” and a token of appreciation? (Chances are they will be thrilled to add the coin to their collection.)

Whether carried in a pocket or purse or displayed on a desk, the coin will be a tangible and constant reminder of your organization and its mission.

You may be thinking that it is too difficult and expensive to create a custom challenge coin. Not so! There are numerous companies that specialize in producing these coins for civilian as well as military use. They have in-house artists who can turn your general concept into a spectacular design at no charge. There is a wide array of options in terms of size, metal finish, edging, enamel colors, and the like. The cost depends on the features and quantity you select, but they are generally more affordable than you might think. You can even purchase a variety of presentation boxes and pouches. I recently used Challenge Coins Ltd. and could not have been more pleased with their design service, options, quality, and speed of production and delivery.

Take the challenge! I think you and your members will be delighted with the result.


Photo courtesy of Challenge Coins Ltd.