We invite you to Rise to the Challenge with HCC! On March 29, 2023, at the 18th annual Presidential Showcase, we presented our attendees with the first ever HCC Challenge Coin. Challenge Coins have an amazing history, read a little more below!
There are several stories detailing the origins of the challenge coin, according to Wikipedia.
The Roman Empire rewarded soldiers by presenting them with coins to recognize their achievements. In Rome, if soldiers excelled in battle one day, they would receive their typical day’s wages along with a separate bonus coin each. According to some accounts, these bonus coins were specially minted, featuring the marks of the legions from which they came. As a result, some soldiers apparently kept their coins as mementos, instead of spending them.
The first instance of using a coin as a response to an actual challenge may come from the 17th century religious wars in France. Following King Louis XIV’s 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes, French Protestants began to suffer persecution by the state for their illegal religion. Many Protestants fled France to find religious freedom elsewhere. Among those who chose to remain in France were some from a Protestant group known as Huguenots who were forced to conduct their religious services in secret. In order to avoid infiltration by state spies the Huguenots began to carry their méreau communion coin. When challenged while trying to gain entry to Protestant church services the Huguenot would produce his méreau coin as a token to show allegiance with the Protestant Church and be admitted entry.
According to one story, modern challenge coins originated during World War I. Before the entry of the United States into the war in 1917, American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the newly formed flying squadrons of the Army and Naval Air Service. In one squadron, a lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze and presented them to his unit. One young pilot placed the medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore about his neck. Shortly after acquiring the medallion, the pilot was forced to land behind enemy lines and was immediately captured by a German patrol. In order to discourage his escape, the Germans took all of his personal identification, except for the small leather pouch around his neck, and took him to a small French town near the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment that night, he escaped. He succeeded in avoiding German patrols by donning civilian attire and eventually stumbled onto a French outpost. Not recognizing the young pilot’s American accent, the French thought him to be a saboteur and made ready to execute him. He had no identification to prove his allegiance, but he did have his leather pouch containing the medallion. To his great good fortune, one of his French captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion, and delayed his execution long enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him they gave him a bottle of wine.
Back at his squadron, it became tradition to ensure that all members carried their medallion or coin at all times to potentially serve as identification. This was accomplished through challenge in the following manner: a challenger would ask to see the medallion. If the challenged could not produce a medallion, they were required to buy a drink of choice for the member who challenged them. If the challenged member produced a medallion, then the challenging member was required to pay for the drink. This tradition continued throughout the war and for many years after the war while surviving members of the squadron were still alive. Read more on Wikipedia.
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