Kavli Neuroscience Gold Medal

The USAFE coin was presented to CMSgt (Chief Master Sergeant) Frink, USAF (Ret) in 1956 when he completed the USAFE (US Air Force Europe) NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer or Sergeant's) Academy as the top honor graduate of Class 56-G. He went ashore into Normandy in 1944, was captured and survived an execution attempt by the SS. Read his story here. Coin details and picture supplied by USAF Chief Master Sergeant (ret) Bud Stolpa.

The Challenge Coin Tradition

A Brief Look at the History of Challenge Coins In the Military

Members of the U.S. military have a long-standing tradition of carrying a special coin symbolizing unit identity and esprit de corps. With bonds forged in battle thousands of miles from home, these custom coins minted for military units – each bearing their own revered symbols and mottos – capture in metal the essence of their affiliation and their fierce pride. Known to generations of American military personnel as challenge coins, they are a vital part of military life today and are revered by troops in every branch of service.

Today, challenge coins are carried by soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, as well as lawmen and firefighters. These coins identify the bearer as a member of a particular unit with a well-defined history and mission. And, wherever warriors gather, they challenge each other by “coining.” The group’s unique coin is slammed on a bar to challenge all in the group to display their own coins; he who is last must pay a penalty.

The tradition of challenge coins can be traced to World War II when American forces deployed to the far reaches of the globe securing the nation’s freedom. Soldiers back to World War I and the Civil War left for battle with a coin from home in their pocket and kept it after the conflict as a lasting remembrance of their wartime experiences.

American soldiers stationed in Germany after the war adopted that country’s popular “pfennig check.” The pfennig was the smallest unit of German currency. When someone announced a pfennig check, a soldier who could not produce one had to buy a round of drinks for his buddies.

Korea Coin

The 17th Infantry Coin of Korea is one of the oldest pure Challenge coins in existence. COL "Buffalo Bill" Quinn, 17th Infantry Regiment, had them made during the Korean War (1950-1952). The Buffalo is from Quinn's nickname. The unit was formed in 1812, thus the date. The Fort is a representation of the 5th Army Corp. badge in Cuba in 1898. The Cross is from the 5th During the Civil War. Coin supplied by Jesse L. Medford – NWT Mint Custom Coin Salesman and OIF Veteran.

The popularity of challenge coins spread during the Vietnam War, inspired by Special Forces that minted coins to express the unique identity and strong bond forged between them. Other units wanted their own coin to build camaraderie and symbolize their pride of membership in an elite group.

A challenge coin is not merely a token. Challenge coins today are a tangible source of pride for America’s warriors at every level in the chain of command. Commanders use them as on-the-spot awards. Senior military leaders often dole out their coins as gifts to foreign dignitaries or civilian VIPs.

Most important, a challenge coin is carried at all times. Coin checks are still a part of military life, and various penalties are still handed out for those found without their coin. (Some cruelly choose locations apt to yield a victory. Rules commonly followed specify that the coin must be carried at all times; neither shower nor latrine exempt one from producing his coin.)

Sweathearts for Soldiers coinSweethearts For Soldiers Coins

“Coins mean everything to guys in uniform. I wanted to be able to give them something that would remind them of our gratitude and affection,” reasoned Jessica Andrews, former NFL cheerleader, about why she and eleven other cheerleaders carried newly-minted coins with them on a tour to visit our soldiers in Iraq. These coins were minted with care and honor by Northwest Territorial Mint and proved a huge success.

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USAF 60th Anniversary coinU.S. Air Force 60th Anniversary Coin

In 2007, the Air Force celebrated its 60th anniversary in grand style, and decided to mark the occasion by minting a very special medallion. To create this medallion, Air Force officials selected Northwest Territorial Mint, famous for its high-relief and highest-quality designs. Perfectly capturing the theme of “Heritage to Horizon,” this 1 ¾-inch medallion features a rendering of the official 60th anniversary emblem on the obverse and a World War II-era flying ace on the reverse.

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