Without a doubt challenge coins are among the best, if not the best, personal presentation items around.  They are no longer just seen in the military but are presented by presidents, movie stars, governors and even the occasional corporal.  As a natural consequence they have become bigger, more elaborate and expected to dazzle.




The answer to this question can be found in a recent article in the University of Arkansas Newswire dated May 8, 2013:


In this article the Newswire mentions the origins of military coins and announces that  Chancellor’s coin would be presented to graduating veterans at a special breakfast ceremony.  Wanting to acknowledge veteran students in a special way the chancellor obviously had many options.  He chose his personal challenge coin.  About the ceremony he said:


“This is a very important event for me,” said Gearhart. “It is a privilege to recognize the men and women who have served our country and are now graduating from this institution. There can be no higher calling than protecting our nation. Our student veterans have given far more than we have any right to ask.”


And here is the important point for me.  The challenge coin is a deeply personal gift.  It allowed the chancellor of the university to recognize the veterans for their willingness to make a priceless sacrifice.  No gift could ever be enough to repay them but in its elegant simplicity the coin tells them that he cares enough to give them something personal as a token of his respect.




Challenge Coin of Mayor Jerry Weiers of Glendale Arizona.

Challenge Coin of Mayor Jerry Weiers of Glendale Arizona.


Here is an easy answer.  Absolutely not!  As we see the most important thing a coin can be is personal.  Whether it is a military coin presented by a commander or a presentation coin created by a coach they should first and foremost carry a personal message from the presenter.  Maybe not by name but by wording or symbolism the coin should establish itself as unique and special.


One of my favorite challenge coins was created by a ranger unit.  It was in the shape of the ranger tab.  It had no colorful unit crests, no moving parts, no diamond cut edges.  It simply said rangers on one side and the name of the unit on the other along with this message.  “For Excellence”.  A soldier will treasure that every bit as much or even more than a large and fancy medallion.  And a lot more than another plaque.




The colonel called himself.  He was ordering HIS coins.  As a brigade commander he was authorized and indeed had unit commander’s coins paid for by government funds.  He respected and used his government coins as they were intended to reward and recognize his fine soldiers.  But this order was special.  It was only 100 coins.  The design he had done himself.  It was simple.  On the front were his eagle and his name.  On the back the words, “thank you very much”.  I asked him why he was ordering these.  He said, “these are my coins not the Army’s coins”.  I will give them when I choose, and to whomever I chose.   Their message is as clear as it can be.”  I would have liked to have had one of these coins.