How and Why to Start a Collection of Rare Military Challenge Coins

When was the last time you collected something? Was it playing cards in elementary school or antiques from estate sales?

Collecting gives you a chance to own a little piece of history. Studies even show that collecting is good for your health. It helps reduce stress and improve focus as work.

There are a lot of items worth collecting.

Coins are an excellent introduction to the hobby because there are so many available. Think of every country’s currency and the history behind those currencies. That’s a lot of coins!

Currency is just the start. There are also rare military challenge coins that you can add to your collection. These rare coins have been growing in popularity among coin collectors.

Keep reading to learn more about challenge coins and how to find the rarest ones for your collection.

History of Challenge Coins

The history of rare military challenge coins spans centuries. Challenge coins first appeared in Ancient Rome, then they really picked up steam during WWII. There are also stories from the Korean War, World War I, and throughout the 2000s.

In Ancient Rome, a soldier might have received a challenge coin for going above and beyond in duty. While these early challenge coins were technically a currency, soldiers started collecting them as souvenirs instead.

Challenge coins started out as simple symbols of appreciation. Over time, more traditions and social customs would form around challenge coins. Sometimes these coins were the only identification a soldier had if they got separated from their regiment.

Challenge coins would also be given to people who fought with a military regiment but weren’t necessarily a part of the military. This was often done for British mercenaries during the Second Boer War.

Civilians who work on bases have also received challenge coins. Learn more about civilian challenge coin history to diversify your collection.

Challenge Coin Customs in the Military

Military challenge coins took off after World War II, but they become even more popular during the Vietnam War. Soldiers started to incorporate their challenge coins into more social games by this point, too.

Drinking games have long been popular with soldiers over the centuries. This tradition also added to the appeal of challenge coins. Challenge coins took the place of the spare bullets that soldiers carried around with them during wartime.

The lone bullet had symbolic value. It represented the last resort a soldier had. It was also frequently used in social games as a token or game piece.

However, live ammunition is dangerous. Many of these drinking games required soldiers to slam down their game pieces on the table. Challenge coins presented a much safer alternative to bullets.

A Korean War Colonel is credited with crafting one of the first rare military challenge coins. He had his challenge coins engraved with his regiment’s symbol and handed them out to his officers. This may have been the beginning of the challenge coin “secret handshake.”

Look carefully when a military leader is shaking hands with servicemen and women. They may be slipping a challenge coin into the palm of military members’ hands! 

Presidential Challenge Coins

Military and presidential collectibles go together like peanut butter and jelly. Naturally, presidential challenge coins make perfect sense.

The first official Presidential challenge coins weren’t made until Bill Clinton stepped into office. Since then, every President has gotten official military challenge coins made. These coins are incredibly popular among collectors.

It’s not just one challenge coin, either. Three different challenge coins are made for a President. There’s an inauguration challenge coin, an official administration coin, and challenge coins created for the public.

Good luck getting your hands on an inauguration or administration challenge coin. If you’re lucky, you could receive a special presidential challenge coin from the President themselves. The President is also the Commander and Chief of the U.S. military, so they can gift military service members with challenge coins, as well.

President Obama was a big fan of giving out challenge coins. He was often seen handing them out on military tours and Air Force One.

Rare Military Challenge Coins to Know

There’s a wide selection of challenge coins and designs floating around. Some of the rarest coins commemorate Army Divers, prisoners of war, petty officer milestones, honor, and submarines.

Some of the rarest coins were made for former Vice Presidents, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden. However, these would be nearly impossible to get.

How to Find Challenge Coins

If you’re a new military challenge coin collector, congratulations! You now belong to a unique club of coin collectors from all over the world. There are a lot of enthusiasts out there, so look for any online challenge coin clubs or forums.

Forums, Facebook groups, and challenge coin blogs are packed with valuable information. Get to the know the community and market better before spending your entire paycheck on challenge coins.

You’ll also discover various challenge coin buying, selling, and trading platforms. Check out these platforms to get an idea of how much different challenge coins are worth. You should also get your own collection appraised.

Rare challenge coins may also pop up in general antique auctions, so don’t forget to scan those too. Check out both in-person and live coin auctions online. You might be able to score a challenge coin from an estate sale.

The general coin collecting community should also yield some good collecting leads. Check out presidential and military memorabilia auctions too. Collectors have also found challenge coins on eBay and other general online selling sites.

Challenge Yourself with a New Hobby

Collecting is a fun and fascinating way to enrich your life. Take your love of history to another level by building a collection with rare military challenge coins. Follow this guide as you build your collection from scratch.

You can never have enough life hacks to get you through the day. Check out the blog to find even more facts, ideas, and inspiration you never knew you needed.