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Detachment Challenge Coin

Challenge coins have a rich history, primarily in military and veteran communities, and have expanded into various other communities, including law enforcement and beyond. Here's a brief overview of their history and usage in these different contexts:


History of Challenge Coins:


The exact origins of challenge coins are somewhat disputed, but the most widely accepted origin story dates back to World War I. American volunteers in France, many of whom were affluent Ivy League students, had specially minted bronze medallions to commemorate their service. One of these medallions saved the life of a downed pilot when it was used to verify his identity, preventing his execution by the French forces, who initially believed he was a German spy.


Over the years, the tradition of challenge coins continued to evolve and expand within the military. The coins were used to foster camaraderie, recognize achievements, and build a sense of identity and belonging within units or organizations. They were often awarded for outstanding performance, significant events, or as mementos of particular tours or deployments.


Usage in Military and Veteran Communities:

  • Unit Identity: Challenge coins are used to identify members of a specific unit or organization. Each unit typically designs its own coin with unique symbols, mottos, and designs.

  • Recognition and Rewards: Coins are often presented as a form of recognition for exceptional service, valor, or other significant accomplishments. They serve as tangible symbols of achievement.

  • Tradition and Brotherhood: The act of "challenging" someone to produce their coin and the consequences for failing to do so are part of the camaraderie and tradition within military units. If challenged, a member must present their coin; failure to do so may result in buying drinks or other consequences.

  • Collectibles: Many military personnel and veterans collect challenge coins from various units and deployments as a way to commemorate their service and build a personal collection.


Expansion into Law Enforcement and Other Communities:


The tradition of challenge coins has expanded beyond the military into other communities, including law enforcement, government agencies, and various organizations. Here's how they are used in these contexts:

  • Law Enforcement: Police and other law enforcement agencies often use challenge coins to recognize outstanding performance, commemorate special operations, or as a symbol of membership and unity within the force. Similar to the military, they can also be used for camaraderie and as a way to remember fallen officers.

  • Firefighters and First Responders: Firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders have adopted the use of challenge coins to honor their colleagues' bravery and to create a sense of belonging and brotherhood within their respective organizations.

  • Corporate and Nonprofit Organizations: Some companies and nonprofits have adopted challenge coins to recognize employees' achievements, commemorate milestones, or build a sense of unity among team members.

  • Civic Organizations and Clubs: Various civic organizations, clubs, and groups use challenge coins to celebrate their members' contributions and to foster a sense of belonging and identity.

  • Personalized Coins: Custom challenge coins are also popular in personal contexts, such as family reunions, weddings, and other special events. They can serve as unique keepsakes and tokens of appreciation.


The history of challenge coins can be traced back to the military, where they have long been used to build camaraderie, recognize achievements, and celebrate identity within units. Over time, their use has expanded into various other communities, including law enforcement, government, corporate, and personal settings, where they continue to symbolize unity, recognition, and tradition.


Our Detachment's Coin


Our detachment has had two detachment challenge coins over the years. The first coin, designed by Ed Sutton, clearly reflects his affinity for eagles, as evidenced by the eagle's head on the reverse side. It's not uncommon for challenge coins to incorporate elements that hold significance to their creators or to the organization they represent. In this case, the Marine Corps League Logo and the eagle's head are symbols of great importance within the Marine Corps and, by extension, our detachment.



When our department's supply of coins was depleted, the detachment made the decision to create a new coin. One of the motivations for this fresh design was the desire to have a coin that could be distributed to both supporters and to express gratitude to veterans for their service. Additionally, we had observed challenge coins from the California National Guard that departed from the conventional coin shape.


As a result, we conceived the idea of a round coin with a cutout design featuring the eagle, globe, and anchor. This meant that the coin would incorporate holes but still maintain its round shape. We all embraced this concept, and even now, more than a decade later, people continue to remark on the distinctive nature of the design.



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