Military challenge coins have been around for a long time and they have evolved for decades. I get asked all the time, “What is a military challenge coin?” I figured since I have told you Challenge Coin Stars is changing the game in the military challenge coin world, that I should explain to you the history first. I have a read a lot of stories about the history, and nobody tells better stories than veterans of the military. We can make something like a round metal object(RMO) sound like it saved somebody’s life. Most history I have read refers to the original challenge coins as an RMO.
This coin or RMO, is not the first ever military challenge coin, but it is considered the oldest known picture of a challenge coin. This particular coin was from the Korean War and was said to be created by Colonel “Buffalo Bill” Quinn. At this time he was the Commander of the US Army 17th Infantry Regiment in Korea during the war. These were given to the members of his regiment to commemorate their tour of duty in the Korean War from 1950 to 1951. This is a very rare coin and very few exist.
The most popular story dates back to World War I with an Army pilot. As the story goes, there was a wealthy Lieutenant that had some bronze coins struck with their unit insignia on them. One of the pilots that received this coin decided to protect it in a small leather pouch that he wore around his neck for safekeeping. Later on this pilot, while on a mission, took on heavy fire when he was engaged with the Germans behind enemy lines. His aircraft was shot down and he was captured. All of his personal items were taken except this pouch around his neck. He was held in a small German-French village overnight before he was to be transported to a POW camp. During the night the village was attacked by the British and he was able to escape. Eventually he was found by a French patrol and they mistook him for a German trying to disguise himself. He didn’t know what to do until he realized he had the leather pouch around his neck with his unit coin inside. The pilot showed the coin and one of the Frenchmen recognized his unit insignia and knew right away that he was an ally.
This pilot was returned home safely were he told the story to his unit of other pilots. From then on the tradition was started. The pilots would challenge each other when they were out and about to ensure everyone was in compliance. If they were not able to produce the coin than they had to buy a drink for the challenger. If all of the pilots had their coin than the challenger was the one who had to buy the drinks. It sounds like a crazy story, but after all it is a military story. Crazy or not, these are the rules today and they stood for the 21 years I served in the Air Force too. We lived by this rule especially in places deployed overseas.
There are plenty of other cool stories out there, but I want bore you. Now it is time for me to tell you how I decided to change the military challenge coin game. The traditional RMO is no longer round. They have evolved into all different shapes and sizes. You will see a lot shaped like the country of Iraq and Afghanistan. You have coins that are spinners or even bottle openers. I was sitting around one day with my buddy and I said we need to change the challenge coin game. He had already designed the first concept with a B-2 Bomber shaped coin, but it didn’t have any 3D detail. I said to him, “you know what, we should create 3D aircraft that are flat on the bottom and put unit patches on them.” He liked the idea and we floated round more ideas to try and figure out how we were going to make this happen.
Eventually we decided to do the F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter. After the decision was made on the aircraft we needed to figure out which patches to put on the bottom of the aircraft. We wanted to show off the history and not just do a current patch or patches. A lot of research was done before we finally chose 3 different military patches to have molded into the bottom of the F-117A coin. To find out more about the history of this design please read my article called F-117A Nighthawk Diecast Challenge Coin.