THE CHALLENGE OF FINDING THE ORIGINS OF THE CHALLENGE COIN
OK. Now you have heard all of the stories about downed airmen in World War One. There is the story about the Special Forces units in Vietnam. So really how old are Military Coins?
TAKE YOUR PICK AS TO THE ORIGINS OF MILITARY COINS
If we include coins made by military units which have monetary value we can go back to Roman times. There are hundreds of examples. Or we can limit ourselves to the US military. If we do limit ourselves to the US Military, we can go back to the civil war and see items like the Dix” token. These were common during the civil war.
BUT WHAT IS THE REAL ORIGIN OF US MILITARY COINS?
They started off as money. As much as it would surprise soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines today there was a time when virtually every unit coined their own real money. These tokens were used in the clubs, dayrooms, mess halls and morale facilities all around the US military. Looking very much like military coins today they often carried the unit crests, a branch insignia or some other identifying feature. And most of the time they carried a denomination. There are many people today who collect these tokens.
THE VIETNAM SPECIAL FORCES STORY
It might be true. But the fact is that you would have been hard pressed to find a Vietnam War era US soldier who did not have a pocket full of military tokens, most carrying his unit or base logo. It is obvious that these military tokens would be valued to show membership in a unit. Today’s serviceperson might be unwilling to put his unit coin in a slot machine but there was a time when it was common. It was an obvious step from these simple pseudo-currency tokens to fancier and fancier representations of unit pride. Indeed the use of military unit tokens lasted long past the Vietnam War.
FROM TOKEN TO COIN
As we can see what was once called a military token was really, in every sense, a military coin. These coins had real monetary value but still had many of the attributes of today’s military challenge coins. So today if you forget your coin you have to buy the beer. There was a time when you used your coin to buy the beer.
In the future we will feature more information about military coins and challenge coins. In this case the truth is often stranger than the myth.