How the Meaning of the Presidential Challenge Coin Changed Over the Years

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Challenge coins for the military and the president

Presidential Challenge Coin a Makeover

As a sign of welcome and honorary membership, it is common for military commanders and government officials to give challenge coins to guests who come to visit. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, among other U.S. Presidents, have all given coins to foreign guests, diplomats, and military members over the years. In the White House Gift Shop, you can find a wide range of White House, Presidential, Air Force One, Military, and Washington, DC challenge and commemorative coins at prices that make it easy to collect, show off, or give them as gifts to family, friends, diplomats, and large groups.

It has also been a military tradition for a long time that the President of the United States, as Commander in Chief, gets a special coin through a secret handshake. A coin from the U.S. President is the most valuable coin in the world.

Since 1946, when it opened, the White House Gift Shop has been the first place to design Presidential, White House, and Air Force One coins, as well as coins honoring military members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Department of Defense, and agencies located on the Pentagon complex.

In a time-honored tradition, the President of the United States, Department Secretaries, the Military, and State Department diplomats, as well as civilians in recent years, have given these items as gifts for important events and friendships.

Coins for the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines

No matter what branch of the military a person served in, the White House Gift Shop has great prices on challenge and commemorative coins that they will love. You can give a Marine, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, or Army coin to someone in the military. Browse our store to find the perfect piece to give as a gift or add to your collection.

Thank you for supporting the White House Flower Fund, which was started in 1946 as the only official original White House Gift Shop.

President Harry S. Truman wrote a memo on December 16, 1950, that changed the White House Flower Fund into the White House Security Fund. Soon after, the White House Security Fund became the White House Gift Shop. We can’t thank you enough for helping the White House Gift Shop serve the people who honorably, bravely, well, and selflessly serve their country.

We just made a challenge coin for the former head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, and I started to wonder what he would do with it and who he would give it to. I was curious if he had his own collection of challenge coins and who had given him coins while he was in charge of this government agency. Even President Trump, who knows? Does the president have coins that he or she can give to people? Yes, is the answer to this question. Since Bill Clinton, each president and, since Dick Cheney, each vice president has had their own challenge coin.

There are usually a few different kinds of Presidential coins, like one for the inauguration, one to remember his time in office, and one that anyone can buy, usually at gift shops or online. But there is one official presidential coin that you can only get by shaking the hand of the most powerful person in the world. As you might expect, this is the most rare and sought-after challenge coin.

The President can give a coin to anyone he wants, but usually he saves them for special events, military personnel, or dignitaries from other countries.

People say that George W. Bush saved his coins for soldiers who were hurt in the Middle East and coming back home. President Obama gives them out a lot, especially to the soldiers who stand on the stairs of Air Force One.

The presidential challenge coin has been in the news a few times. Most recently, a vice admiral gave a coin to President-elect Donald Trump in November 2016. In other situations, former President Obama was caught on camera giving coins to service members, especially those who guarded Air Force One or Marine One.

What does a presidential challenge coin actually look like? When are they given out, and what kind of designs do they have? Let’s take a look.

President Trump

Donald Trump - 45th President Coin

Trump has made his own design for a presidential coin. It has his name on it in three places, while other presidents have only thought it necessary to put their names in one place. And instead of the presidential seal, Trump’s coin has the White House with an eagle’s head facing right, not left (get it?).

On the White House Gift Shop website, you can find other coins that remember different parts of President Trump’s time in office. Even though they are not “official” presidential coins, people can buy them in the gift shop to add to their collection.

In November 2016, Vice Admiral Dave Johnson gave President Trump a challenge coin after a security briefing at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Most of the time, the coins are given to the president. However, some military members decide to give the president a challenge coin with their unit or battalion logo or something similar.

President Obama

HUBCOINER 44th President Barack Obama Commemorative Coin Challenge Coins

When he had the chance, former President Obama liked to give out presidential challenge coins. He was often caught on camera giving a coin to a military member guarding Air Force One or Marine One. In one case, he dropped the coin in the middle of giving it to a marine in front of Marine One.

Obama would often give the coins to members of the military with a “secret handshake,” where he would hold the coin in his palm as he shook hands with the person he had chosen. This made the exchange quiet and private, which made it hard to take a picture of.

Most people who got a presidential challenge coin kept it close, but you can find out what it looked like and even see pictures of it. On the front was a 3D model of the White House, with President Obama’s signature below. “Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States” was written in gold on a blue background all around the White House. The Seal of the President of the United States was on the back of the coin.

In addition to giving the coins to service members, President Obama would sometimes leave one on the graves of soldiers who had died in military cemeteries across the country.

President George W. Bush

OZUKO 43th President George W. Bush Commemorative Coin Challenge Coins

When the chance came up, President Bush was also a big fan of giving out challenge coins. Bush often gave coins to the families of soldiers who died overseas in battle.

The President Bush challenge coin was similar to the Obama challenge coin. It had a 3D mold of the White House with the words “George W. Bush, Commander in Chief” on the front and the Seal of the President of the United States on the back.

President Clinton

Bill Clinton Commemorative Coin Challenge Coins

On the credenza behind his Oval Office desk, President Bill Clinton showed off several racks of challenge coins that U.S. service members had given him. There are displays of these coins at the Clinton Library right now. In the background of his official portrait, which now hangs in the White House, you can see the challenge coins.

Challenge coins are now used by a wide range of groups. Everyone in the federal government has their own coin, from the Secret Service to the White House staff to the President’s personal valets. The coins for White House Military Aides, who carry the atomic football, are probably the coolest. They are, of course, in the shape of a football.

But since PinProsPlus makes high-quality custom challenge coins for everyone, everyone is now taking part in the tradition. Today, it’s common for police and fire departments, as well as civic groups like the Lions Club and the Boy Scouts, to have coins. Even people who dress up as characters from Star Wars in the 501st Legion, ride Harley Davidsons, or use Linux have their own coins. Challenge coins have become a way to show your loyalty that lasts and is popular with collectors.


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