The Rules of the Challenge Coin & the Coin Check

Written by Robin Brown on February 4, 2021


In the armed forces, exchanging a challenge coin signifies a significant level of pride and camaraderie. However, a challenge coin holds greater significance than a mere keepsake.

Indeed, neglecting to carry your challenge coin can have more consequences than you might realize. Therefore, let us delve into the origins of a coin check and examine the guidelines to ensure you remain well-prepared for the challenge.

What is a Coin Check?

Challenge coins are associated with various tales of their origins. Among these stories, the coin check stands out as a noteworthy tradition related to challenge coins that every individual should be aware of.

Similar to the narratives themselves, a coin check serves the purpose of identifying fellow service members. It is customary for a service member to initiate a coin check when they seek to establish a connection with others who have served.

Here Is How A Coin Check Works:

To initiate a coin check, there are two common approaches. The first is a vocal announcement, where an individual declares the commencement of a coin check. Alternatively, a more discreet method involves forcefully placing the coin on a table or the floor. Therefore, it is crucial to be attentive and listen attentively in such situations.

Once a coin check is initiated, every individual in possession of a challenge coin is expected to present it. Hence, it is always advisable to keep your challenge coin with you at all times.

The Myth of the Coin Check

The tradition of the coin check challenge originated during World War II in Germany. It was the American soldiers stationed there who embraced the practice of "pfennig checks."

In Germany, the pfennig denoted the smallest denomination of currency. If a pfennig check was initiated and you were unable to produce a pfennig coin, it meant you had to purchase beverages for the group.

The American soldiers adopted this custom and modified it by challenging each other through the act of slamming a medallion on the bar. If an individual failed to present a medallion, they would be responsible for treating everyone to a round of drinks.

However, if every participant showcased a medallion, then it was the challenger's duty to buy drinks for the entire group.

The Rules of Coin Check

1. To initiate a coin check, you signify your participation by forcefully slamming your challenge coin onto a solid surface. In response, all other individuals present in the room must promptly slam down their own challenge coins.

2. Failing to respond to a coin check carries consequences, known as penalties. The nature of the penalty varies and is determined by the group conducting the coin check. It could involve purchasing beverages for everyone present or enduring a night of playful teasing and mockery. The specific penalty depends on the discretion of the initiating group.

3. If all individuals successfully respond to the coin check by presenting their challenge coins, the challenger themselves becomes subject to a penalty.

4. Coin checks or challenges can be initiated at any time or in any location, as long as there are at least two other individuals with challenge coins in close proximity.

5. Losing or relinquishing possession of your challenge coin does not exempt you from participating in a coin check or receiving a penalty.

Challenge Coin Etiquette

While challenge coins have become more prevalent in contemporary times, they continue to hold significant value as symbols of honor. It is essential to accord them the respect they deserve. If you possess a military challenge coin, here are some etiquette guidelines to bear in mind:

1. Explain the Rules

It is essential to provide a clear explanation of the rules to anyone who has received a challenge coin. This practice promotes fairness and ensures that calling a coin check is conducted with integrity.

2. Keep Your Coin on You

Given that a coin check can be initiated unexpectedly, it is crucial to keep your challenge coin in close proximity. If you are found without your coin when a coin check is called, you will be held accountable and subjected to the penalty determined by the rules.

It is important to emphasize that this rule also applies in the unfortunate event of losing your coin. Losing your challenge coin does not exempt you from participating in the game or absolve you from the associated consequences. You are still expected to fulfill the obligations and face the penalties established by the rules of the coin check.

By keeping your coin within reach and understanding the implications of its absence, you can actively engage in the coin check tradition and maintain the spirit of camaraderie it embodies.

3. Initiate Challenges Carefully

It is essential to exercise thoughtful consideration when deciding to initiate a challenge. Keep in mind that if every participant presents their coin in response to your challenge, you will be responsible for paying the penalty.

By carefully selecting the timing and circumstances of your challenge, you can gauge the likelihood of individuals possessing their coins and potentially avoid incurring the penalty yourself. This strategic approach allows for a fair and enjoyable experience, ensuring that the spirit of the game is upheld.

4. Don't Think of Challenge Coins as Jewelry

It is not appropriate to wear your challenge coin as a form of jewelry, such as a bracelet or necklace. If you prefer to wear it around your neck, it is advisable to keep it securely stored in a pouch attached to a chain.

Furthermore, it is important to maintain the cleanliness of your challenge coin. Dirty military challenge coins can be perceived as disrespectful. To show proper reverence, make an effort to keep your coin as clean as possible, ensuring it remains in a presentable condition.
Respecting the significance of the challenge coin includes appropriate handling and care, which contributes to upholding its honor and symbolism.

How to Properly Give Someone a Challenge Coin?

Challenge coins are intended to be treated with reverence and respect. Consequently, the transfer or passing on of a coin should be conducted in a dignified and honorable manner, devoid of any ostentation or theatrics. There is no need for an elaborate ceremony.

The traditional method of exchanging a challenge coin involves a simple handshake. Many soldiers receive their challenge coins in this manner. A commander or high-ranking official will hold the coin in their hand until they shake hands with the soldier.

During the handshake, the coin is discreetly and subtly passed between the two individuals. This clandestine gesture is often employed by the President of the United States when bestowing a coin upon someone.

By adhering to this understated practice, the significance and solemnity of the challenge coin exchange are preserved.

When Do You Give A Challenge Coin?

Challenge coins hold the power to serve various purposes. They can be employed to bestow recognition upon individuals for their outstanding achievements or commendable dedication, regardless of whether they are military personnel or civilians.

These coins can be presented as tokens of appreciation to first responders, members of fraternal organizations, sports teams, and many others. Their versatility allows them to transcend boundaries and be utilized in diverse contexts.

In addition to their role as symbols of recognition, challenge coins can be used effectively as unconventional business cards. Their unique nature sets them apart from disposable and ordinary business cards, leaving a lasting impression on recipients. Moreover, challenge coins can foster unity and instill a sense of pride among a group of individuals, promoting a shared identity and purpose.

The multifaceted nature of challenge coins enables them to fulfill various functions, from honoring exceptional individuals to fostering unity and pride within different groups and organizations.

Custom Challenge Coins

Military challenge coins bear the name of the military unit or organization a person is a member of. Since they have grown in popularity, you can easily get challenge coins made for any event or organization.


Challenge coins, as common as they might be, are all about honor. As such, they must be treated with care and respect.

Coin checks can be fun shows of camaraderie. However, if you get caught without your coin, it may not be fun for you. That being said, we encourage you to refer to our list of rules above.

They should ensure you stay on top of the challenge no matter what. We hope this was helpful to you. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
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Article written by Robin Brown
Robin Brown is part of the content team at Vivipins where he develops resources to help customers start and grow their own businesses.
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