A secret handshake as you may know, typically belongs to secret clubs and organizations. Secret handshakes have developed over time, nowadays close friends, teachers and students, and athletes can be seen doing their own version of personal secret shake. These handshakes are a way to show that you are a part of a special or elite group, and that other people, well, are not. But there is one secret handshake that has been around a lot longer than your typical frat handshake, less ornate but with one very significant difference. Enter… the challenge coin.
Unless you are affiliated with the military or local law enforcement, you likely have never heard of this handshake. The reason you likely never heard of it is because of the way the coin is passed. A high ranking official walks up to a soldier and extends his hand to the soldier, they shake hands and just like that it’s over! It’s a quiet and discreet exchange, designed to not call attention. However, at that moment that soldier has just been honored for an important action they took in their field of duty or for their accomplishment of a mission. The unit commander just walks up and shakes their hand directly and places a small round object directly into their palm. But what does that mean?
What is a Challenge Coin?
Challenge coins are specially designed coins that are not necessarily meant to be traded. A challenge coin is a coin given to a member of a group to commemorate a moment in time. These coins are in remembrance of your time in the military. They are also used to reward or honor someone when they have achieved something remarkable. The challenge coin is of high personal value, and indeed it is a priceless thing to own. They are collectibles in which people are proud to show off in their offices or at home and each challenge coin houses a story for the person who possesses it.
Although you can find challenge coins primarily throughout military culture, that doesn’t mean you can’t find them anywhere else. Many organizations such as firefighters, local law enforcement, and even nonprofits utilize challenge coins as nod to the original uses. The Purple Heart Foundation has its own challenge coin usually given to the strongest supporters of its veteran services programs, we’ll talk about that at another time in another blog.
The tradition of challenge coins has been around for decades and even comes with its own set of rules. Stay tuned for the next blog where we dive deeper into the legacy of the challenge coin.