As many of you are aware, the origins of the concept of Challenge Coins is based on Military Challenge Coins.

Although the Challenge Coin origins are not really well defined, the tradition is deeply rooted in the (Military’s) idea and desire to instill unit pride, improve esprit de corps and to reward hard work and excellence. Research shows multiple stories claiming the origins of the Military Challenge Coin tradition. Some believe that military service and coins go back much further than the Modern Age — possibly as far back as Ancient Rome.

One of the more enduring stories about the emergence of the challenge coin dates as far back as the First World War. At that time, a wealthy military officer gave his men bronze medallions featuring the insignia of their flying squadron. One young pilot placed the medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore around his neck. Shortly afterward, the young pilot was shot down behind enemy lines and was captured by a German patrol. His captives took all of his personal identification except for the small leather pouch around his neck.

After he managed to escape to France, he was sentenced to die, as the French labeled him a spy. However, the young pilot presented his medallion as proof of his identity. Because one of the French soldiers recognized the insignia, France delayed his execution. After his identity was confirmed, he was returned to his flying unit.

Upon return to his squadron, it became a tradition to ensure that all members carried their medallion or coin at all times. This was accomplished through the challenge - a challenger would ask to see the medallion. Anyone challenged who could not produce a medallion was required to buy a drink of choice for the member who initiated the challenge. If the one challenged produced a medallion, then the challenger was required to pay for the drink. This tradition continued throughout the war and beyond.

(Should you desire additional information, search Military Challenge Coin; the internet abounds with information on the history of the Military Challenge Coin tradition.)