THE CHALLENGE COIN; are you up for a challenge?
The challenge coin. An old custom among firefighters and the military, with high symbolic meaning. A unique token, that bears a unit’s insignia and is carried with honor by the unit’s members. Wearing one proves your membership to that particular unit, and helps boost morale by initiating the fabled coin challenge.
The principle is simple: since unit members should carry their coin at all times – at work, at home, at your mother in law’s or in a bar – the challenge is used to ensure that everybody is carrying theirs. Although the specific rules vary per unit, at any given moment, any unit member can initiate what’s called the coin check: the coin is drawn and then placed or rapidly tapped on the bar or table. Upon seeing or hearing the coin check, everyone being challenged must immediately produce the coin. Failure to do so results in a penalty, which usually entails buying a round for the others. However! Should everyone challenged be able to produce their coin, it is the challenger that will receive the penalty. So pick your moment carefully!
Although specific rules may vary per unit, various additional rules to make the challenge even more challenging have been known to exist. A few examples:
- “The step and reach”: the coin does not necessarily have to be carried by its owner, as long as it is within a step’s reach
- “The savior”: upon a coin check, passing on an extra coin to someone who is not carrying his
- “The drop”: the owner buys a drink for those who see or hear his coin falling on the floor
- “The thief”: if somebody is able to steal a coin, the ‘victim’ should buy a drink for everyone
- “The clean slate”: adjusting the coin to make it easier to carry at all times is prohibited. A coin attached to a belt buckle, or if it has a hole drilled in it to attach it to a lanyard or key ring, no longer qualifies as a challenge coin.
Serving as honorary awards for non-unit members, special memorial coins are also often awarded in recognition of a visit to other units. Traditionally, the presentation of a coin is often passed during a handshake, passing from the right hand of the giver to the right hand of the awardee, as a sign of mutual respect. It is also normal for the giver to offer a brief explanation of the reason for awarding the coin.
Whether to call them challenge coins, unit coins or memorial coins; nobody knows for certain where their origins lie. Several stories are known, some say WWII or WWI, and some even say it can be traced back to the Roman Empire. What’s certain is that they are a treasured and respected representation of the organization minted on the coin. And because of their unique designs, coins have become incomparable collectors’ items. So the question that arises is: when will you add the Resqtec Challenge Coin to your collection?