Challenge Coin Rules: A Guide on the Etiquette of Military Coins

Challenge coins have a fruitful history. Its concept date back to the gladiator era in Ancient Rome, when a gladiator would receive a special coin as a bonus. In some accounts, the coin has a mark of the legion.

Challenge coins are more or less the same when American soldiers adopted it. Some organizations used it for identification, while some used it as tokens of appreciation. Today, some even use it as business cards.

But because they’re associated with military use, they’re also called military coins. Even if you’re not a part of the military or have never been, you can still have one and use it.

How do you use it? As a part of the tradition, challenge coins are an integral part of the so-called coin check. We’ll explain more about that below; keep on reading to know the rules and etiquette.

1. Challenge Coin Rules

Using the challenge coin to get a drink or a round is pretty easy to do. There are only two sides to the challenge.

Initiating a Coin Check

Coin check is what you call the challenge. You can call for a coin check to initiate the challenge in different ways. Take note that you can only challenge each person once.

The simplest way is to say or yell that you’re initiating a coin check. You must show your coin, however, by holding it up for everyone to see, waving it around, or simply holding it.

There’s a way you can initiate the challenge without speaking, though. You can slam the coin into any surface hard enough so that everyone you’re challenging can hear it. It can be on the bar, floor, table, or else.

Try not to leave an imprint on the surface, though.

The third way you can call for a coin check is to drop the coin on the floor on accident. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t intend to start a coin check. Treat it as punishment for mishandling your coin.

Responding to the Coin Check

When you call for a coin check, everyone in the vicinity must show their coin, too. If one or more fails to do so for any reason, such as leaving it at home, they’re on the hook for the drinks. If everyone shows theirs, you’re the one who loses.

If you’re on the other end of the coin check, make sure to show your coin as soon as you can. This is why you should always carry your coin with you. 

The prize is a drink or a round of drinks, whichever the challenger decides on. The person who fails to show a challenge coin is on the hook for the drink/s. If the challenger loses, he/she is the one who’s buying.

There is one important tip to keep in mind: only show your coin when responding to the challenge. Don’t ever hand it to the challenger or someone else. By doing so, you’re giving the coin to that person.

Coin Checks Can Happen Anytime, Anywhere

There’s no limit to when coin checks can happen. It can happen at any time and any place, even when you’re fresh out of the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel.

In such cases when you don’t have your coin on your person, though, you’re allowed to take four steps and reach for the coin. This is the “four steps and an arm’s reach rule” you must remember. 

2. Challenge Coin Etiquette

Aside from the rules, you must also get familiar with the military coins etiquette.

Explain the Rules

Any time you give someone a coin, etiquette dictates you explain the rules as well as you can. Once the recipient understands the implications of getting a challenge coin, you can then initiate a coin check right away if you want. It’s rude to challenge someone who’s not yet adept at how the challenge works out.

Respect the Coin

A coin is not an accessory; don’t wear it on your person. Don’t use it as a necklace, bracelet, belt buckle, or such. It is, however, acceptable to keep it on a pouch you’re wearing.

As the coin indicates honor, keep it clean and don’t deface it, as well. This includes drilling a hole into it to slide in a strap or – heaven forbid – losing it.

Don’t Lose Your Coin

Losing your only coin doesn’t take you out of the game. While you can’t call for a coin check, you’re still going to be a part of every coin check initiated by someone else. 

You’re not going to be able to show a coin in response, though, which means you’re on the hook to buy drinks for every challenge until you get a new one.

Let Other People See Your Coin

You can let other people see the coin, but you can’t hand it to them. Like we’ve already discussed, it’s the same as giving it to them.

If they want to inspect it and hold it, you can place the coin on the table. Other people can then examine it as they wish, but they’re bound by honor to return it. 

Don’t do this often, though, as you must take good care of your coin.

Zero Exceptions

A coin check doesn’t tolerate any reason or exception. If you don’t buy the drinks if you lose, you’re forfeiting your coin to the issuing agency.

3. Want to Give Someone Military Coins?

If you give someone a challenge coin, this means you honor them for whatever they’ve done or their hard work. Anyone can qualify even if that someone isn’t a part of the military or the police. Any organization can order custom ones off the internet and take part in the tradition.

If you do decide to give someone a coin, do it discreetly. High-ranking officers often keep the coin on their palm and then transfer it to someone else while shaking hands with them. You can do this or simply hand it to the other person; don’t be all dramatic about it.

Buy Challenge Coins

Military coins are a good way to strengthen solidarity and camaraderie within an organization. If you’re up for the challenge, buy coins now and give one to everyone who’s qualified. The qualifications can be up to you as long as you put honor in it.

Not sure which coins to get? Uncertain about where to display them? Check out more of our posts today and read up all the answers today.

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