The Rules of the Challenge Coin & the Coin Check

Written by Robin Brown on February 4, 2021


In the military, sharing a challenge coin is a huge sign of pride and camaraderie. However, a challenge coin can be far more than a simple memento.

As a matter of fact, forgetting your challenge coin can cost you more than you think. As such, let’s take a look at the roots of a coin check. Moreover, we’ll explore the rules to help you stay on top of the challenge.

What is a Coin Check?

Challenge coins come with many origin stories. However, of these stories, the coin check is a challenge coin tradition you should know.

Much like the stories, a coin check helps identify service members. Traditionally, a coin check is initiated when a service member wants to connect with other service members.

Here Is How A Coin Check Works:

First, a person can shout out that they are starting a coin check. A more subtle option is to slam their coin onto a table or the floor. As such, it is important to listen carefully.

After the coin check is initiated, anyone who has a challenge coin must present it. That being said, always keep it on your person.

The Myth of the Coin Check

The coin check challenge began during World War II in Germany. American soldiers stationed in Germany at the time took up the tradition of “pfennig checks”.

A pfennig refers to the lowest coin in Germany. If you didn’t have one on you when a check was called, you had to buy beers.

American soldiers adopted this by challenging each other by slamming a medallion on the bar. Anyone who didn’t present a medallion would be responsible for buying a round of drinks.

If everyone presented a coin, then you, the challenger, would buy everyone drinks.

The Rules of Coin Check

1. You initiate a coin check by slamming a challenge coin onto a hard surface. All other responders in the room must answer by slamming down their own challenge coins.

2. If you fail to respond to a coin check, you must answer the penalty. This can include buying everyone a round of drinks or a night of mockery. It depends on the group initiating the coin check.

3. If everyone successfully responds to the coin check, the challenger is penalized.

4. Coin checks or challenges can be issued at any time or place. As long as there are at least two other coin holders in the vicinity.

5. Losing or giving away your challenge coin does not provide you immunity.

Challenge Coin Etiquette

Although they are more common now, challenge coins are still honorable symbols. They should be treated as such. If you own a military challenge coin, here are rules of etiquette to keep in mind.

Explain the Rules

You should always explain the rules to anyone who has received a challenge coin. This ensures that calling a coin check is done in fairness.

Keep Your Coin on You

Since a coin check can be called at any time, keep your coin close. If you are caught without it, you will be subject to the penalty.

This also applies if you lose your coin. Losing your coin does not exempt you from the game.

Initiate Challenges Carefully

Think carefully about when you want to present a challenge. Remember, if everyone presents a coin to your challenge, you are paying the penalty.

Don't Think of Challenge Coins as Jewelry

You should not wear your challenge coin as a type of jewelry, like a bracelet or necklace. If you want to wear it around your neck, keep it in a pouch on a chain.
Also, keep your coin as clean as you can. Dirty military challenge coins can be seen as disrespectful.

How to Properly Give Someone a Challenge Coin?

Challenge coins are meant to be handled with care and honor. As such, transferring or passing on a coin should not be ostentatious or dramatic. There does not need to be a ceremony.

The traditional way of handing over a challenge coin is through a handshake. This is how many soldiers receive their challenge coins. A commander or high-ranking official will hold it in their hand until they shake hands with the soldier.

Then, the coin is quietly and subtly passed between the two. This secret handshake is often how the President of the United States will pass on a coin.

When Do You Give A Challenge Coin?

Challenge coins can accomplish many things. They can be used to honor an individual for an achievement or for their hard work. This can be for both military personnel and for civilians.

You can gift challenge coins to first responders, fraternal organization members, sports teams, and so much more.

You can use them as business cards because they are much more unique and less disposable. Moreover, they can be used to just create unity and pride for a group of people.

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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