What Is Challenge Coin Etiquette?


Challenge coins are a unique piece of military history and culture. The use of these coins is so enjoyable, in fact, that they’ve spread into every facet of the military as well as areas of personal life. Your workplace, for example, might bolster company pride by incorporating challenge coins.

What is a challenge coin, though, and how do you use one? We’re going to take a look at challenge coin etiquette today to give you some insight into how you can play challenge coin games the right way.

Let’s get started.

Where Do Challenge Coins Come from?

The origin of American army coins is tucked into the folds of World War One. A squadron of men from different classes in society needed a way to unite. This particular squadron of the airforce included one wealthy man who took the initiative to have custom coins made for the group.

They showed the coins off to everyone they could find, even soldiers from other countries. One man, shot down and fallen behind German lines, would go through an extraordinary journey and make his way to No-Man’s-Land.

After creeping across the space between battling German and French factions, the American soldier was taken hostage by the French (who sided with the Americans). These French soldiers had no way of knowing if the American was a spy.

It was only when he displayed his squadron’s coin that one of the French soldiers recognized it and knew he was truly an American soldier. Word spread about this fact, and the presence of challenge coins became an integral piece of military culture.

After all, if the coin could save the man from WWI, it could save you, too.

Proper Challenge Coin Etiquette

Now, things have evolved over the past 100-odd years. The challenge coin is used in a different fashion now than it was used in the story above.

The first thing to note is that you should always have it on you. The “challenge” of the coin is that you have it on you whenever you’re asked to present it.

Someone might challenge you to see if you’ve got your coin on you. When you show up empty-handed, you’re pretty much at the will of the challenger. Depending on who you surround yourself with, this could be harmless.

It could also be a little more uncomfortable for you. This is because the challenger can ask you to do something as a punishment for failing to display the coin. In most cases, that means you have to buy a round of drinks for the bar.

While that hurts your wallet, it’s not that big of a deal. Alternatively, you might be asked to run a great distance or do something humiliating. Obviously, depending on the person who challenges, these things can be more or less tolerable.

So, the first rule is to keep your coin on you at all times.

Two Sides to Every Coin

On the flip side, challenging someone comes with a risk as well. If you challenge a group of people to display their coins and they all have them, then you are the one who has to complete the challenge.

You’re the one who buys the drinks, does the embarrassing things, and suffers the consequences. So, proper etiquette is to always remember that the challenge is a two-way street.

There’s no backing out when you challenge your group and fail.

Don’t Be Cruel

You’re able to do almost whatever you want when it comes to the challenge. You could tell someone to dance around in their underwear if you really wanted to, and the rules of the game would say that the person has to participate.

While many people will adhere strictly to the rules, don’t take advantage of this. Challenge coins are supposed to be a fun aspect of a group’s culture. They’re not supposed to cause terror or undue anxiety about going out and getting challenged.

Further, if you know that someone’s not doing well financially, try to respect that and avoid asking them to buy a round of drinks. That $100 bill might mean a lot more to them than it does to you.

Challenges Are Everywhere

Challenges don’t just take place at the bar. They’re available all the time to anyone who’s playing.

You might even spot your old pal walking down the street fifty years from now and find that he challenges you. Now that would be a surprise, but you’d still have to walk to the bar and buy that man a drink.

The fact that these challenges can happen anytime is actually a pretty great thing if they’re used correctly. Servicemembers (and groups of all kinds) are often put through their own challenges, oftentimes creating difficult situations.

In those instances, when appropriate, doing a coin check and lightheartedly challenging your peers can be a way to cut through the seriousness of the situation. It offers a little light to lift spirits and keep people united.

It’s in that spirit that we move on to the final piece of coin etiquette.

Keep Your Coin Clean

Make sure your coin doesn’t turn into a dirty old chunk of metal you’d find in your car’s cupholder. A clean coin denotes respect, and letting one get dirty is a sign of disrespect.

These coins are a symbol of your bond with the people in your group. Further, the coin can serve a truly important purpose if you’re in a situation that needs to be lightened up. So, do your best to keep the coin clean to show your appreciation for the group and the game.

You just have to make sure you put it back in your pocket when you’re done, or you’re buying drinks for the night!

Want to Learn More About Challenge Coins?

We hope our look at the challenge coin was useful to you. There’s more to learn about challenge coin holders, though. We’re here to help.

Explore our site for more ideas on how to find, use, and enjoy challenge coins.