Coins have a staying power few other keepsakes can match. They’re the fascinating foreign stowaways lingering in unpacked luggage after a trip overseas. They’re the captivating little relics languishing in the dust in the back of an antique dresser drawer. They’re the intriguing finds nestled deep in the bottom of a vintage coat pocket. Each seems to beckon with a story to tell. Who carried it? What did it buy? How many hands has it touched? Unlike many other forgotten attic curios, coins have a tendency to stick around. They’re currency, so no one is ever eager to part with them.
Challenge coins create an even more lasting impression: They’re created specifically for making memories richer and recollections more permanent. Their origins are familiar, but they’ve since gained a contemporary versatility that has far outlived their earliest purpose. How are they used today? Count the change.
Military and Civic Honors
These medallions are still highly regarded by the military, and that enthusiasm has never dimmed. Their latest popularity lies with other areas of public service, where use of challenge coins is at an all-time high. They congratulate and inspire police agencies, special task forces and fire departments, and they’re particularly meaningful to units with shared experiences. Just as soldiers carry reminders of valor in battle, those who have served faithfully in the public sector appreciate symbols of bravery, selflessness and collaboration.
If anything is true of today’s currency exchange, it’s the fact that everyone’s counting pennies. Companies are constantly looking for affordable ways to reinvigorate morale, but many attempts at employee recognition leave recipients cold. Certificates and plaques can be predictable, and kitschy doodads emblazoned with the company logo end up forgotten in desk drawers. Challenge coins recognize impressive terms of service, reward loyalty, or celebrate exemplary performance. Beyond the obvious anniversaries, holiday parties or retirement gifts, they also instill a sense of accomplishment and solidarity within individual departments or working groups. If a team risks forgetting how difficult a sales goal was to reach, how trying the numbers were to crunch, how demanding a coveted client was to land, or how challenging a campaign was to launch, a coin will always be there as a reminder of hard work, persistence and achievement.
College fraternities and sororities are perpetually on the lookout for unique expressions of brotherhood or sisterhood, and coins offer something more lasting than handshakes, T-shirts or bumper stickers. Here, these mementos evoke their original function: tangible expressions of membership. Handed down from a legacy to a new recruit during an initiation ceremony, a coin will be revered as much as a fraternity or sorority pin or lavaliere will be.
A letterman’s jacket may someday fall out of vogue for school sports stars, but a smaller, more compact reminder of a winning season won’t. Coins are also minted for school clubs, bands and honor societies, from the Latin Club to the drum corps to the cast of a school play wrapping its final performance.
Collectors aren’t just on the hunt for the antique, the elusive or the extinct; sometimes the novel is just as fun a find. Collecting challenge coins is a growing trend; one famous collection even resided in the White House under President Bill Clinton.
Personalized coins are standard bearers for an earlier time, and these are treated as heirlooms. Whether it’s an original medallion for belonging to a battle division, a permanent reminder of membership in a beloved organization or a nod to first place in a spelling bee, a challenge coin is an expression of personal identity that can remain in a family for generations.
Because they’re less pricey to produce than many other recognition gifts are, these make popular gifts that pack a far more touching punch than most people would expect. Using only a high-resolution image, they can be customized down to the slightest detail, so there’s no organization too small, no membership too unorthodox and no occasion too random for production of a one-of-a-kind collector’s item. Challenge coins mark milestone birthdays, births, adoptions and graduations, but they also commit life’s littlest moments to memory. Whether they’re made for a society 100 members strong or for five best friends sharing an inside joke, there’s no doubt that this is one form of currency that’s as rewarding to give away as it is to earn.