Most members of military, police and fire departments (and military or coin enthusiasts) are familiar with challenge coins, but many do not know the rich history behind challenge coins. Modern challenge coins are used to honor heroic actions and build a sense of brotherhood among units and departments. A challenge coin has long been seen as a “badge of honor” to those who have been awarded them.  But how did the military challenge coin tradition begin? Their story starts way back in World War I with a captured U.S. airman who used a coin to gain his freedom.

Air Force Challenge Coins: The First Challenge Coin

There are several different versions of how the modern day challenge coin came to be, but the most widely accepted one is of an American Air Force commander (part of the Army Air Corps, at this time in history) had special coins struck for all of his pilots, as a symbol of brotherhood and to honor their courage. One of the commander’s pilots was shot down over enemy territory, where we was captured by German patrol and stripped of his uniform.  He escaped and was later captured by a U.S.-friendly French unit.  The French were convinced the airman, who was dressed in stolen civilian clothes, was actually a German espionage agent and intended to execute him. The only thing that saved the young airman was showing his challenge coin to the commander, who recognized the unit insignia and understood that this was an ally soldier.

Modern Day Military Challenge Coins

After the pilot’s heroic return home, word spread about his dramatic close escape from the firing squad – and the tradition of challenge coins began to grow. Soon, the creation and presentation of challenge coins spread throughout the military, to all units. Challenge coins of the past were quite simple. Today’s challenge coins aren’t just meaningful tokens of bravery and brotherhood – they are true works of art, with stunning imagery, colors and designs that extend far beyond the realm of traditional round coins. In addition to military challenge coins, challenge coin manufacturers create police coins and fire coins to honor those heroes who are serving and protecting their communities on the home front.

Buying the Best Challenge Coins

When it comes to the best in modern challenge coins, there is one name that stands out: Phoenix Challenge Coins. Known as an innovator in terms of design and artistry, Phoenix Challenge Coins is creating some of the most exciting challenge coins on the market. Phoenix also offers unrivaled quality and strength in each durable, beautiful challenge coin. When only the highest quality will do, when you want to honor your soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines, police officers and firemen with a challenge coin truly worthy of the service and sacrifice they make every day, contact Phoenix Challenge Coins.