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Challenge Coin Rules, history and Tradition

military challenge coin rules


Challenge Coin History and Tradition

We discussed the background of challenge coins a few days ago, including how and why they came to be a part of the military and civilian culture. However, people continue to inquire as to WHY they are known as challenge coins or what the rules of the game are.

What exactly does the challenge stand for? What is the meaning of the phrase? Let’s find out more about the history of challenge coin regulations.

As we previously said, challenge coins have existed since World War I in a variety of forms. The (unverifiable) legend regarding a downed American aviator trapped behind enemy lines surrounds the first challenge coin.

When the pilot returned to the friendly territory after escaping from his German prisoners, he used a unique pendant he had crafted for his crew to prove his identity. From there, the legend surrounding the pilot and his unique coin developed into the custom we follow today.

That merely clarifies the history of the coinage itself, though. The “challenge” component emerged later, with a specific technique that was well-liked by Allied soldiers in post-World War II Germany.

challenge coin

The West German one-pfennig coin was only worth a fraction of a U.S. cent when exchanged, so most American soldiers didn’t even hold them unless they were in dire financial straits.

If a soldier called out for a “pfennig check” in any setting where servicemen gathered for a beer, everyone had to empty their pockets to reveal if they had any pfennigs on hand. The military was on the verge of bankruptcy if they had even one pfennig.

If not, it meant they had enough cash to buy the next round without worrying about saving pfennigs. This tradition led to the creation of military challenge coins.

Today’s military personnel utilize challenge coins in place of pfennigs. A unit or battalion’s members may design their own challenge coins with their own unique emblem, mascot, or other special artwork, or they may get a special coin from a senior officer signifying a noteworthy accomplishment.

However, the challenge coin rules remain the same: if you don’t provide your coin when challenged, you have to pay for the subsequent round.


The “official” challenge coin rules of engagement are as follows:

  1. Rules of the challenge coin games must be given or explained to all new coin holders.
  2. Before any challenge, the game’s rules must be completely clarified. If you don’t clarify the challenge beforehand, it’s impolite to call it out.
  3. There are no exceptions; the coins must be carried at all times.
  4. The maximum number of steps that participants can take to get their coins is four. Anything beyond that is not taken into account.
  5. The challenger must specify whether it is for a single drink or a round for the crew.
  6. If the challenge fails, they are required to uphold the challenge and purchase the beverage (s). A challenge may only be issued once per individual.
  7. The challenger is required to purchase the subsequent round if each person who was challenged can produce a coin. (Research before attempting to challenge!)
  8. You are responsible for finding a replacement coin if you lose it or give it away. Otherwise, you’re spending a lot of money on beverages while you wait!

challenge coin rules


Coin checks are accepted EVERYWHERE, ANYTIME.


There aren’t any exemptions to the laws. They apply to both clothed and bare individuals. You are given an arm’s reach and one step to find your coin at the time of the challenge. SORRY ABOUT THAT if you are still unable to access it.

Tell Us Your Story

Are there any Challenge Coins stories you’d like to share, or do you know what the Challenge Coin’s history is? If you know anything about the beginning of Challenge Coin usage, please share it in the comments section below.

The legend that we like the best is from World War II when the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) was sent into Nazi-occupied France. There are a number of similar tales out there, but none have been independently verified as being true. Their coins were simply local coins that served as bona fides in meetings to confirm an OSS agent’s legitimacy and identity.

Each party carefully scrutinized the coin’s details to distinguish between friends and enemies. This stopped spies from breaking in who might have known ahead of time where, when, and even what coin would be presented at the meeting.

challenge coin rule

The 10th Special Forces Group, the first Special Forces unit known to have a genuine Challenge Coin, is also the oldest Special Forces unit in the Army. Prior to the establishment of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in 1987, Green Berets were the only units that were known to possess coins.

The Custom Challenge Coins have since become widely accepted in both the military and business worlds. Today, it is likely impossible to find a US President or other high-ranking official without one. Pick up your ITS Prevail Challenge Coin by clicking here.

Just Custom Challenge Coins Now

about challenge coin rules

Now that you are aware of the significance of the challenge coins, well job! If you’re fortunate enough to own a coin, keep it close at hand at all times. The next challenge might happen at any time!

All branches of the armed forces, corporations, and nonprofit organizations may purchase the best bespoke challenge coins from our challenge coin gallery. Email us at for more information on our custom coins and other goods, or fill out our online form for a free estimate.

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