What is a Challenge Coin?

A Closer Look at Custom Challenge Coins and the Meaning Behind Them

We’ve been in the business of designing and manufacturing custom coins for over 20 years, and the question we get asked more than any other is, “What is a challenge coin?”

A challenge coin is a custom made coin that’s designed to represent an organization or team. The people in a team are given challenge coins as proof of membership, and as a mark of respect and honor. Challenge coins are also made to commemorate special events and in honor of important achievements.

Military challenge coins are the most well known, but there are several different uses for challenge coins. The artwork and design of challenge coins vary depending on the organizations ordering the coins and how the coins will be used. However, almost all challenge coins include a team emblem or logo.

This is just a brief explanation of what makes a challenge coin. To really understand the answer to the question, “What is a challenge coin?” you need to dig a little deeper. We’re going to break down everything there is to know about challenge coins, from anatomy to the different types of challenge coins and their meanings.

Once we’re finished, you’ll know exactly what makes a challenge coin a challenge coin.

Challenge Coin Gallery

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Custom Challenge Coin Anatomy: What Does a Challenge Coin Look Like?

Traditional challenge coins are round, and they feature custom artwork of a team’s emblem. Some other popular additions are team mottos, important locations, and the dates of special events.

Gold and silver are the most popular metal plating options, but there are several other metal finishes available including copper, nickel, black metal and iridescent metal (also called rainbow metal). Soft enamel paint is added to recessed sections of the artwork by hand to recreate emblems and logos.

While this is the traditional anatomy of a challenge coin, there are plenty of custom options available that can result in something that looks remarkably different.

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Custom shaped challenge coins oftentimes include functional bottle openers. Bottle opener coins are most popular in the military, but they’re also an excellent option for fundraisers and volunteering events.

Combining two or more challenge coin plating options creates a beautiful contrast in a design. Gold and silver are always a good pair. We also love combining copper and nickel plating.

For the most depth and detail, 3D artwork is your best option. While traditional 2D challenge coins offer plenty of room for intricate artwork, a 3D design allows for realistic detail.

We make creating custom challenge coins easy!

But we would prefer you hear it directly from other customers 😉

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What Does a Challenge Coin Represent

Challenge coins are designed to represent a team. Coins that include references to important dates, mottos or emblems are a celebration of team history, and when it’s shared among a group of people, it becomes a symbol of trust and respect.

If you read through the history of challenge coins, you’ll find a number of different stories that shed light on why challenge coins have become so popular and what they have come to represent for different types of teams.

Roman soldiers were believed to carry special “bonus coins” as proof of their courage on the battlefield.

The famous story about a World War I lieutenant who made bronze coins for his squadron illustrates how challenge coins are a source of identity: proof that a soldier belongs to a team.

During the Korean War, Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Quinn created special coins for his soldiers that were a celebration of team history, and during the Vietnam War, special unit coins were made to symbolize the camaraderie shared among soldiers during the toughest times.

Today, challenge coins represent all of these things.

What is the Purpose of a Challenge Coin?

The purpose of many military challenge coins is to build camaraderie, celebrate team history, and honor service. However, the purpose of a challenge coin will depend on who is making the coin.

For example, Fortune 500 companies have custom coins made for branding purposes. Corporate coins are sometimes given to staff members and other times shared with people outside of the company for promotional purposes and merchandising.

There are also commemorative challenge coins designed to honor loved ones and men and women who have died while serving our country or the community. Remembrance challenge coins give families and friends a special token to carry that helps memories of loved ones live on.

Challenge coins are used to raise money for charity, to commemorate special events, and for all kinds of other reasons, as well.

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How Do You Design a Challenge Coin?

Designing a custom challenge coin takes three easy steps.

Send us your ideas for design by filling out a free quote form.

Receive your first free proof of artwork, and let us know how we can improve the design.

Order your coins, and they will be delivered in 14 days or fewer.

To learn more about the design process and about all of the custom options we offer, you can check out our video, Challenge Coin Design 101: How to Design a Challenge Coin.

We offer free artwork, unlimited revisions, free priority shipping, and a 100% quality guarantee on all of our custom products. Our professional art team has experience preparing finished artwork for the challenge coin production process and helping our customers come up with artwork from scratch.

It’s common for us to create a unique challenge coin design based on hand-drawn sketches and bullet lists that outline ideas for a coin design. If you’re ready to create a coin, reach out to us today by filling out a free quote form, and see how we can bring your vision to life!

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Ready To Get Started?

When you are ready to proceed, use the convenient Order Form on our site to place your challenge coin order.