I am getting more and more calls from people asking for appraisals on their military coins and challenge coins. I am more than happy to take these calls. Let me say, up front, that I am not an expert in Military Coin values nor do I represent myself as one. I am a designer and manufacturer with 17 years of experience in the challenge coin business. In that time I have had the opportunity to make tens of thousands of coins for everyone from high government officials to celebrities to, on one occasion, a very nice corporal. Rather than try to give you values let me just post some observations.
Who is the Challenge Coin From
Nothing affects a coins value more than the person or organization who presents it. Coins from famous people or famous military units will usually bring high prices. Sometimes though, just because a coin is from a famous person does not mean that it is rare. Some generals give out hundreds of military coins a year and some give out very few. One general I know gives out less than 25 coins per year. His command coin would be far more rare than the average general officer coin.
Of course most military coins are not from famous people but many are from famous units. Therein lies both their rarity and their appeal. One only has to look on the auction sites to see the very high prices that special operations coins bring. It seems that a lot of people want to carry them around. Whatever the reason for wanting special operations coins they sure do command high prices. There is a rub though. Many of these coins (and those from famous people as well) are fakes. Is the word “fake” too strong? I think not. There are companies out there who make these fakes and pass them off as authentic. My suspicion would be that there are not actually a dozen iterations of the Seal Team Six coin. That is if there even is a real Seal Team Six coin. We don’t make them and if I recall the unit is not even called Seal Team 6 anymore. Caveat Emptor.
How to Authenticate a Challenge Coin
Of course the best way is to actually call the unit. Get with the first sergeant or the executive officer and ask them. I imagine most will be more than happy to tell you. I referred an individual to a unit just the other day. It is probably not easy to call a general or celebrity on the phone but you can pretty easily speak to the celebrities’ publicist or the general’s staff.
Sometimes you can find a coin on one of the manufacturer’s websites that is like yours. Most manufacturers are happy to tell you about the coin. Reputable manufacturers will never sell you a coin that they have made for others without written permission from the unit commander or celebs representative. Never. I can tell you that in the over 17 years we have been doing this, it is a vanishingly race occurrence. In fact I can’t remember it happening. If a commander or a celeb wants you to have one of their coins they will give it to you.
A note to consider about military coins. Many of these are paid for with government money and are for a specific purpose. To reward excellence in the unit or organization. These would not be given out indiscriminately. The presenter will be mindful of their responsibility to manage their resources carefully.
Some Challenge Coins are Fundraisers by the Unit
Many units have two versions of their coin. One from the commander or senior enlisted leader and another from the booster club. The booster club coins are sold to raise money for the unit’s activities. These can be fun to collect and you can find out about them by looking at the unit’s Facebook page or even contacting the unit directly. These may not be as rare as a commander’s coin but may let you get “official” coins from some pretty exciting units.
I am happy to answer questions about challenge coins so don’t hesitate to call.
Rick (The R in D & R)