Challenge coins are more than just collector items; they are a long-standing tradition in the US Armed Forces that represent service and sacrifice to our country in conflicts around the world. Each coin is unique to the appropriate military branch, unit and conflict of its time. While custom challenge coins have become commonplace in the pockets of politicians, government officials and staff in Washington, D.C. there are several rare challenges coins that are much sought after by active duty military members, veterans and civilians.
The Rarest Challenge Coin In The United States
The rarest challenge coins are presidential challenge coins, bearing the Seal of the President of the United States. Since Bill Clinton was in office, each U.S. president has had a custom coin for their administration, usually passed down to military personal, wounded military members and their families as well as foreign dignitaries. These are typically transferred through a quick handshake, making the presentation of a presidential challenge coin a discrete and prestigious honor.
Other Rare Challenge Coins
While a presidential coin may be the rarest in the world, there are other distinctive challenge coins that are difficult to come by. Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden have both had custom coins made and other challenge coins from the Executive Branch and are also extremely rare, as the president’s cabinet typically has coins made, including the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense.
A Brief History of Military Challenge Coins
The history of these sought after pieces of military history are shrouded in a bit of folklore and mystery, dating back to the First World War. Legend has it that an American pilot was gun down and captured by Germans, but later escaped. Donning civilian clothes, the solider was able to bypass no man’s land until the French commandeered him. With no form of identification, the French assumed him to be German, until the American produced a medal that was pressed from bronze by his commanding officer. When a Frenchman recognized the inscription, the soldier was spared execution.
During the Vietnam War, American soldiers were known to form bullet clubs—carrying around an unused, live bullet from missions. The tradition became a challenge to fellow military members in bars, slamming down the ammunition as a challenge for a free round. However, as club members began to carry heavier ammunition, this presented a safety issue and the Army’s 10th and 11th Special Forces Group began to craft custom challenge coins. The tradition of challenging active and retired military for a round of drinks still prevails to this day. As the challenge is presented, those who do not have their coin on hand are obligated to buy a round for those who do.
Bill Clinton’s Challenge Coin Collection
The popularity of the challenge coin escalated in the 1990’s when then president, Bill Clinton, received a large collection of coins from military personnel, which he displayed in the Oval Office. This collection is often seen in pictures and in the official portrait of President Clinton.
Challenge coins became more prevalent throughout the military at this time, with insignias represented on each coin. President Clinton’s personal collection is now on display at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Start Your Military Challenge Coin Collection Today!
Medals of America offers an extensive collection of challenge coins for collectors and those who have served in the United State Military. With 200 options to choose from, we have an assortment of coins that represents every branch of the U.S. Military, along with Vietnam Challenge Coins, Religious Challenge Coins and Military Medallions.America's Rarest Challenge Coins - Presidential Collections,