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The History of Challenge Coins

When showing customers the Texas Challenge Coins that I designed, I’ve had many people say “what are challenge coins?” Well, honestly, that’s a fair question! Let me spend a bit of time today to explore the answer for you.

Unfortunately, there is a not a ‘definite’ origin to the story of challenge coins. There are several different tales regarding their use, so I’ll do my best to sort them out and give you a top level view of some of the most commonly accepted stories of their early use..and current use.

The Tradition of Challenge Coins has always revolved around military service, but now challenge coin use is expanding to civilian uses as well!
The Tradition of Challenge Coins has always revolved around military service, but now challenge coin use is expanding to civilian uses as well!

Nearly all of the various stories have a direct tie in with the military. Challenge coins have been used as a token of recognition, to identify membership to a group, to prove allegiance and as a way to boost morale for soldiers for many years and even many centuries!

Here’s an old tale of back in the days of Roman kings and emperors. Maximus was known to pay his legionnaires (basically professional, hired-gun soldiers) with special coins made specifically for the purpose of rewarding his soldiers. This is likely the first recorded instance of what we now know as challenge coins.

Moving forward a few centuries…during WWI an American pilot was shot down over Germany and was held as a prisoner of war. All of his possessions were taken by the captors, except the clothes on his back and a small leather pouch. The American eventually escaped Germany and found his way to France. The French thought he was a spy and didn’t trust him at all UNTIL he pulled a small token coin out of his leather pouch. This coin was given to all of the members of his squadron before they started their mission over Europe. Upon seeing the challenge coin, the French finally believed him that he was American and he was returned to his squadron. The challenge coin likely saved his life!

In recently decades the term “Coin Check” has found its way into bars and other social settings. In any local watering hole that is frequented by active military or retired veterans, one might hear a bar patron yell “COIN CHECK!”. Everyone knows that means that there is a mad rush to present your challenge coin. The last one to do so, or heaven forbid the soldier who failed to bring theirs, is responsible for buying a round of drinks for the house!

As you might imagine, failing to put your challenge coin in your pocket every morning might get a bit expensive! You DO NOT want to be THAT GUY, do you? I didn’t think so! Save yourself some hard-earned greenbacks and go to and buy yourself some good ole Texas Challenge Coins. You’ll thank me the next time you hear “COIN CHECK!!”

Over the last several years, challenge coins have found their way into more and more civilian uses as well. Motorcycle clubs commonly use them, collectors are a prominent part of their lore and just about any social group or club can use them as something of a membership card for their members! Be sure to show that you're a proud member of the great club known as "Texans" by getting your Texas Challenge Coins right here at

Thank you for reading!


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