A Brief History of the Challenge Coin

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Our Women's Brains Matter Challenge Coin Campaign aims to inspire women to achieve their goals, by allowing individuals to spread positivity through gifting a coin and message. Because we have made a campaign surrounding the idea of the Challenge Coin, this post aims to provide a background for our mission.

Challenge Coins today represent honor, and are given as tokens of appreciation and courage, sometimes as a representation of an organization. During the Roman Empire, coins were presented to soldiers to recognize courage in battle. Later on, portraits upon medals were crafted to signify nobility, often being shared among friends.

The Women's Brains Matter Challenge Coin

The modern Challenge Coin, however, has its roots in the first World War. As the story goes, a wealthy lieutenant in the United States Military presented every soldier in his air squadron with a bronze medallion before their flight into battle. When one of the planes was gunned down during the battle, one of the soldiers was taken captive by the German Army. After enduring conditions as a prisoner of war, he escaped captivity and reached an allied French Outpost. Assumed to be a German spy, his life was dependent upon identifying himself as a genuine American soldier. Having nothing in his possession except the coin that his lieutenant had given him, he presented the coin to the French soldiers and was returned to his squadron. Thereafter, every member of the squadron was required to carry their medallion with them at all times. When the squadron soldiers began challenging their comrades to present the coin (or by the challenger a drink) the Challenge Coin tradition took its shape.

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