Are you a collector? Collecting things can give us a purpose in life and something to look forward to. It’s a hobby shared by enthusiasts across the social spectrum and throughout the world.
George V, King of Great Britain and Emperor of India, is famous for his stamp collection that is worth many millions of pounds.
As well as stamps another great collectible item are military challenge coins. But just what are they? And how do you go about collecting them? How much should you pay for challenge coins?
Here’s everything you need to know.
When In Rome…
What is a challenge coin? Challenge coins originated in Ancient Rome. The Roman Emperors wanted to show their people that they were in charge. They also wanted their coinage to be in circulation in places that they had conquered.
The Romans were expert military conquerors and one of the reasons for this is that they often relied on the help of others, not just their old soldiers. If they wanted to invade parts of Europe or into Africa then they couldn’t do this.
The First Historical Records
They needed the help of locals who knew the landscape and the tactics the local natives would use to try to force out foreign invaders.
To do this the Romans had to pay these local soldiers who had flipped sides handsomely. And one of the best ways to do this was with challenge coins. The coins were made from expensive metals that the warriors could trade on.
But they were also a momento of the battles and campaigns that they fought for the Romans, a great historical record that historians today are only too keen to seek.
Today you can also get custom coins made to reflect the personal battles or challenges in your own life.
What Happens in Vietnam Stays in Vietnam
Military challenge coins also offer a unique opportunity for the military to reward people in secret.
Take the Vietnam War of 1955 – 1975 in which America was defeated.
Just before the U.S got formally embroiled in this conflict, they were already sending secret troops in to help fight the Communist troop of Northen Vietnam who had declared independence from France and the capitalist south.
The Communist Threat
These troops were largely directed by the CIA and their operations were secret as no declaration of War had yet been issued by Congress. America had a vested interest in ensuring the Northen Vietnamese troops did not prevail because they were worried about the influence of communism in Asia and Eastern Europe.
By the end of the 1950s, China and Korea were both under communist control along with Russia and the Soviet states. If Vietnam had fallen too, the perceived threat to Europe would have been huge.
At the same time, there was little political capital back home from American troops to involve themselves in yet another war in a foreign country.
The problem with this is that loyal soldiers who would ordinarily be honored for their battles and courage were left out of official records. Generals on the ground were not happy with this situation. They felt it could leave the troops feeling demoralized and unrecognized.
So they minted their own secret military challenge coins that could be awarded to troops who had proven themselves on the battlefield that they could keep for themselves.
Remembering the Dead
Military challenge coins are also great because they mean that if a soldier was to die during unofficial armed combat in Vietnam their families would have something to honor their memory by.
The challenge coin could be taken and shown on the pride of the place of a mantelpiece or worn as a locket.
Soldiers awarded these coins were also noted in secret logs to that in future years so that their service could be acknowledged with higher accolades when their service became public knowledge.
Presidential coins are another set of military coins that are highly collectible. Although they sound like they have a long history, the first President to mint one was Bill Clinton in 1996.
The Vice President also mints his own coins starting with President George W. Bush’s deputy, Dick Cheney in 2001.
Each pattern on the coin is unique and they are only handed out during that President’s term so there is a limited number and are a unique reminder of the age that the recipient lived through. If a President only serves one term they are considered rarer.
Every president gives out the coin for different reasons. Since President Bush instigated the Iraq War he would give it out to veterans. President Obama was known to give his coins to the soldiers who protected Air Force One.
President Trump, in his own bombastic way, has brought his mark to the challenge coin. His first challenge coins had a Make America Great Again (MAGA) feel to them.
He has also been criticized for his recently minted military coin with ‘Trump defeats Covid-19‘ on the side of it.
Military Challenge Coins: A Great Momento
How do challenge coins work? Military challenge coins are a great collector’s item and one you should consider purchasing. They offer a unique insight into that period of history and they are also a historical record. Their history goes all the way to Roman times.
Collecting military challenge coins is a better hobby than collecting stamps which are expensive or on other habits such as gambling or alcoholism.
Want to learn more about military challenge coins? Then be sure to check out the rest of our site.