Custom military coins are no longer a niche product that only a few devoted know about. Nowadays, the tradition of handing out coins to people has grown in popularity. The reason for this growth in popularity is its portrayal in media and the fact that many presidents have begun to follow this tradition.
These military coins have no inherent monetary value. They are not currency. Instead, these coins have more symbolic value. Custom coins are given out to recipients for a wide variety of reasons. Whatever the cause might be, organizations outside the military have now begun to use them as a symbol of recognition for the achievements made by its members.
Most people do not really have a good solid idea what these coins are though, and what they are actually used for. Below is a brief background on custom military coins, so you can further understand them.
The origins of the tradition
The tradition of custom challenge coins traces its roots to several stories. Most, if not all, of these stories are apocryphal, meaning no one really knows if they are true.
One version involves pilots from World War I. A pilot was shot down and found himself behind enemy lines. He was caught by the Germans and was stripped of all his belongings save the coin given to him by his squad leader.
After escaping, the man found himself in French territory where the French thought that he was a saboteur. He then showed him his coin. The French then celebrated his return instead of executing him.
Another story traces the roots of custom military coins to World War II. During the war, some Allied spies used old French coins as bona fides for their clandestine meetings. They would challenge each other to show their coin as proof that they were indeed working for the Allied powers.
Some even say that the story began in Vietnam. Soldiers carried around live bullets and used them to challenge each other to a free drink. Eventually, this practice was banned and instead of using bullets, soldiers challenged each other by slamming their coins. The soldier who fails to show his or her coin is then responsible for buying the challenger a free drink.
The industry that makes them
Because of its popularity, the demand for custom coins gave rise to a fledgling industry. It may not be huge, but it is definitely a lot bigger than it used to be.
Plenty of companies out there make coins for all sorts of people and organizations. They often vary in prices and services. Some of these businesses, for example, make coins that can function as bottle openers or key chains.
Some producers of custom military coins are cheaper than the others. The reason for this price discrepancy varies. Some have access to better sources of raw materials. Others produce coins on a much larger scale and can therefore lower their costs of production.
There is even this recent trend in the industry where coin manufactures no longer actually manufacture the coins that they sell. These manufacturers prefer to outsource the production process to countries like South Korea and China. The cost of labor and raw materials is so low that it is actually cheaper to make them do it and eventually just have the coins shipped to the United States.
The custom coins of today
Today’s custom coins are largely different from the coins of yesterday. Some coins are given to commemorate a certain event. For example, Jon Favreau was said to have given out custom military coins for members of the military who helped during the filming of Iron Man 2.