Ok so this is a stretch. Right? Not really.
This weekend is the annual amateur radio field day. It is, perhaps, the premier event in all of Amateur radio. (Also known as Ham Radio.) Sponsored by the ARRL, on this weekend amateur radio operators from across the USA and around the world will exercise their ability to operate in emergency conditions. So before I go into Challenge Coins let me say a word about Ham Radio.
You may have guessed that I am an amateur radio operator. No I don’t wear a visor and sleeve garters but I do operate an archaic piece of equipment called a “radio”. Some of you older folks will know what that is. For you younger folks, it is the thing your mom listens to in the car. Well it turns out that you can not only listen to radio but you can talk on them. All you need is one of the three classes of licenses the FCC offers amateurs and you can converse around the world. From my little “shack” (as amateur radio operators call their radio rooms) I can and almost daily do speak to people all over the world. I can do this independent of any form of wires and even have my own power source.
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS THERE IS HAM RADIO
More often than one might think hams are pressed into service in emergencies. The loss of power, cell towers and other infrastructure can leave wide areas without communications at all. Amateur radio operators can reestablish communications in a matter of minutes. Large numbers of hams practice this on an ongoing basis but any of us can do it. So in an emergency I can speak to another ham in an afflicted area, patch him into emergence services through telephone, the internet or a network of other radio stations. The FCC is well aware of the service we can and do provide. How much capability. I could spin my chair around, push a few buttons and speak to stations across the country and around the world. So if you need to tell your folks that you are OK after a natural disaster, find a ham. They can get your message through under just about any circumstances. It is also fun to speak to people all over the world.
I highly recommend the hobby. If you think your cell phone is sophisticated? I can pick up my Iphone, link via the internet to a radio repeater station in Bangladesh, put out a call and speak to someone there who is fishing on the local lake. Even if there is no cell phone service in his area, or the power is out… and all he has is a pocket sized radio and a battery. If you are into technology, what most people consider that archaic hobby is really cutting edge. Maybe some day I will tell you about amateur satellite or earth-moon-earth communications. This is not your daddies ham radio anymore. You may also wish to know that although a great many hams like to use Morse Code it is no longer required to obtain a license. Many hams enjoy voice, digital and other modes of Amateur Radio Communications without ever even learning the code.
So what Else do Amateur Radio Operators Do?
In addition to emergency work and just chatting with friends around the world, we participate in contests. There are all kinds of contests. Some use Morse code, some use voice, some use digital modes. Some attempt to make large numbers of contacts, while others try to work specific areas or countries. These contests, of course have awards, and that is where coins come in.
Amateur Radio Contest Coins
For generations contesters have worked for certificates. Wouldn’t a challenge coin work better? They are easy to design, easy to produce and easy to send. They have a high perceived value and look for all the world like medals. What a terrific award for Radio Sport. (I don’t like that term but what can I do?)
Coins for Ham Radio Clubs
Every club should have their club coin. They are great fundraisers as we have discussed before. The same custom coin, done in a variety of finishes to denote denomination can lead people to contribute. Suppose you have a brass coin for members. Make that a silver one if the member gives $20.00 to the repeater fund. The gold coin is reserved for the president to present for outstanding service to the club or to an influential member of the community. The Amateur Radio Club Coin can be the handiest thing you have available.
So you see it is not a stretch. You really can make very good use of Challenge Coins in the Amateur Radio community. And you thought all along that I was going to suggest that your club make coins for the people who pass their exams. Brass for Technician, Silver for General and Gold for Extra Class. Well alright. I do suggest that. Put your club logo on one side and present these to the folks who pass their exams. It might be a good way to welcome newcomers and reward upgrading.
So there are some easy ideas about Ham Radio Coins. I have a bunch more ideas if you would like to hear them. Just give me a call and we can discuss them.