Gone are the days when military coins were exclusive to the men and women in the US service. Today, this military tradition has spread to the other agencies of the government, non-governmental organizations, corporate sector and civilian sector – not just in the US but all over the world. Challenge coins, as they are alternatively called, evolved from the old-style round-shaped coins into insignia of varying shapes, coating and finishes.
With the establishment of numerous numismatist forums online, information about which challenge coins to collect, how to get them and news of numismatics-related events are made accessible. If you are in the hunt for a fun pastime, you might want to try collecting challenge coins for the following reasons:
Appreciation of Bravery and Patriotism
Some challenge coins–the ones that are awarded to members of the army, navy, marines and air force– are symbolic of their participation in life-threatening military operations. Such practice is believed to have originated from one of the rituals of the Roman Empire in the ancient times. In their ritual, Romans rewarded their returning warriors with their regular salary and additional coins. Some of the awardees treated the extra coins as symbols for valor; thus, they kept them instead of spending on luxuries like liquor.
Most recipients of challenge coins in recent decades do the same.
The preserved challenge coins are usually difficult to collect. However, some recipients give theirs to civilians as a form of giving back. For collectors, that rare opportunity is such an honor. Accepting the challenge coin entails appreciating the bravery, patriotism and hard work rendered by the military personnel.
Challenge Coins Contain Stories
When you collect challenge coins, you are not just collecting uniquely-minted coins from different entities; you are also collecting stories – stories behind each coin. Challenge coins from the police department, fire department and other government agencies also have stories of heroism and camaraderie, much like their military counterpart.
Aside from stories of heroic acts, the challenge coins may also be symbolic of the stories of the organization where it came from. The details in each challenge coin signify certain attributes of the military unit or the entity that rewarded such.
There are also fun and inspirational stories coming from the possession and use of challenge coins. The most popular of which is the story of a young American pilot in World War I. The pilot was given an insignia and he put it in a pouch he wore around his neck. One time, he was left with no choice but to land in Germany (which was then regarded as an enemy). He was captured but he was able to escape. After wandering in no man’s land, he was seen by French troops and was captured again. The young pilot insisted that he was an ally and he attempted to prove such by showing the military coin his superior gave him. One of the French captors was familiar with the insignia so they later on released the pilot.
The name, logo and founding year of the organization are the most common facets in military coins. But coin collectors, also referred as numismatists, dig deeper into the physical details of their collections. They study the history behind the names and symbolisms featured in the coins. Along their search, they don’t just stumble upon less-known facts about well-known events and organizations; they also encounter invaluable lessons.
Many veteran numismatists have over hundreds of coins as their collections. It takes a lot of dedication to get there. The help rendered by fellow challenge coin enthusiasts is indispensible as well.
Collectors as well as history buffs help each other by exchanging information and decoding symbolisms altogether. In the process, you might find friends who can be with you for a long time – beyond the borders of military coins. Your common interest and frequent interactions can jump start your friendship. So why not try to gather friends as you collect coins? After all, challenge coins are often sought to promote camaraderie among members of a certain organization.
This hobby isn’t likely to die soon. With so many organizations still purchasing personalized military coins for their members, you can look forward to more possible collections.
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