The Ultimate Challenge Coin Etiquette Guide

October 16, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Challenge coins have lots of traditions, rules, and etiquette associated with them.
  • Most challenging coin tradition comes from the military.
  • Following these rules are incredibly important in the armed forces.
  • If you aren’t in the military you don’t need to follow these rules if you don’t want to.

‍Challenge coins have tons of traditions and etiquette surrounding them, and knowing all of these rules is essential for anyone with a challenge coin.

So what are the rules of challenge coin etiquette? Well, the most important rules that challenge coin owners need to follow are that you must carry your challenge coin with you at all times and that a challenge can be initiated at any time and anywhere.

Challenge coin tradition was largely developed in the military, so if you are close to someone in the military, are a service member yourself, or are someone who wants to start their own challenge coin tradition, knowing the rules is incredibly important. So what exactly is a challenge and what other challenge coin etiquette do you need to know?

Table of Contents

‍Military Challenge Coins

Challenge coins have existed in the military since World War I, so it's no wonder that all the traditions, rules, and etiquette surrounding them came from the military. It’s also no wonder that these rules and traditions are incredibly important to military challenge coin holders.

Military challenge coins aren’t given out to just anyone. They’re given out to service members to honor their service and sacrifice, recognize extraordinary achievements or acts of bravery, and generally boost morale, so military members tend to take these rules very seriously.

They also feature honorable symbols and military logos printed in the center, usually showing the branch or specific unit that the recipient served in, making every member’s coin a physical representation of the permanent imprint the service of many veterans and current military personnel has left on them.

However, if you are someone who has designed their own custom challenge coins for some other local club or organization, you are not obligated to adhere to the same rules.

The standard tradition can be a lot of fun to participate in but custom challenge coins are about being exactly what you want them to be, so you can make your own challenge coin rules and traditions in your own unique and memorable way.

What Exactly Is A Challenge?

A challenge, or coin check, is a tradition that allows any challenge coin owner to challenge any other coin owner to prove that they have their coin. This is the central challenge coin tradition and most of the other rules and etiquette that have to do with challenge coins pertain to the rules of this coin challenge game.

The game’s rules are quite simple. In order to initiate a challenge, a challenger will firmly place their coin on the table in front of them. This challenges the one of two people that the challenger is with, however, if the coin were to accidentally drop to the floor, this would start a challenge with everyone in the room.

Once initiated, whoever was challenged responds by showing their challenge coin. If one of the people that has been challenged is unable to show that they have their coin, they lose the coin check and are forced to buy a round of drinks for the challenger and everyone else who was able to show their coin.

However, if all those persons challenged are able to show that they have their coin, the challenger loses and is forced to buy a round of drinks for everyone that was challenged.

The Ultimate Challenge Coin Etiquette Guide

Now that we know the basics of what challenges or coin checks are, there are still plenty of challenge coin rules that you need to follow in order to have proper challenge coin etiquette.

Only Those Who Have Been Given A Coin Can Be Challenged

This rule may seem like it would be obvious, however, it’s still important to note. If someone hasn’t been officially presented with a challenge coin, they cannot be challenged or otherwise participate in coin checks.

Being able to challenge people that don’t have coins, to begin with, is clearly unfair, and it’s why challenges between organizations or even military units are discouraged.

Everyone Needs To Know The Rules

Another important rule to keep things fair is that the rules of the coin check game must be fully explained to everyone that is given a coin so that they fully understand what is expected of them. As a new recipient, you’ll need to listen carefully.

Keep Your Coins Close By At All Times

This is incredibly important as you will most definitely lose a challenge if you don’t have your coins close by. After all, while you may have your challenge coins safe and sound at home, you definitely can’t show them unless you have them with you.

Most people carry their coins in their pockets or somewhere else that is easily accessible and on their person. However, the general rule is that you are permitted to have a step and arms reach to retrieve your coin so as long as it is close by, you don’t necessarily need to have it in your pocket.

Think About The Consequences

Challenge coins are supposed to be a source of morale in a military unit, but challenging too much or only when you know that someone doesn’t have their coin could potentially have the opposite effect, so you should always consider the consequences of a potential challenge.

Not to mention, you may get away with a free drink if you win the coin check, but you also may end up buying drinks if you lose so it’s best to coin check sparingly.

You Can Only Challenge Someone Once

While you can challenge people on multiple occasions over a long period of time, once you’ve challenged someone you can’t keep challenging them and forcing them to buy you drinks.

If they lost the challenge the first time, you already know that they don’t have their coin which makes the challenge unfair and pointless.

Don’t Hand Over Your Coins

One of the most crucial challenge coin rules is that you should never hand someone your coins.  A coin handed to someone is a coin given to someone, and you most definitely don’t want to give up your coin.

Instead, if you have been challenged you can properly respond by holding your coin or placing it on the table. If someone wants a closer look at it they can have it but they are honor bound to bring it back to where they found it.

Don’t Deface Or Wear Your Coins

Another one of the most important challenge coin rules is that you can’t deface coins or wear them like an accessory. While coins worn around the neck are generally accepted, drilling holes in your coins so that you can wear them as belt buckles or put them on key chains is not allowed.

Along the same lines, having dirty coins is a bad look too, so even though it may not be quite against the rules, you should keep them clean and tidy.

Don’t Lose Your Coins

If you lose your challenge coins, it's best not to let anyone know about it and just replace them discreetly. If you lost a coin, you definitely can’t present it if you are challenged so you should immediately replace it as soon as possible

Though they are frequently sold online, you’ll also not want to lose your coin because high-quality challenge coins can be expensive to replace so best to keep them safe and close by at all times.

Challenges Can Happen Anytime, Anywhere

Probably the most important of challenge coin rules, the fact that a challenge can happen at any time or anywhere is essential to make sure that everyone has their coins on them at all times and not just when out getting drinks.

How To Give Someone A Challenge Coin

There is also certain etiquette around how challenge coins should be given. While many coins are meant to reward some huge accomplishment, they are often just meant to prove membership in a unit.

Choosing the right moment to give current members of the armed forces and other veterans their coins is important. It may be during some other event or ceremony but it must be given in the correct manner.

To properly hand out challenge coins, the coin needs to be silently passed to the recipient as they shake hands with the coin giver. They may verbally acknowledge the act later but while it is being handed off no one is supposed to know, not even members of the group.

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