Coin Rules and History
A 'Coin Check' consists of a Challenge and
The challenge is initiated by drawing
your coin, holding it in the air by whatever means possible and state, scream,
shout or otherwise verbally acknowledge that you are initiating a coin check.
Another, but less vocal method is to firmly place it on the bar, table, or floor
(this should produce an audible noise which can be easily heard by those being
challenged, but try not to leave a permanent imprint). If you accidentally drop
your coin and it makes an audible sound upon impact, then you have just
"accidentally" initiated a coin check. (This is called paying the price for
improper care of your coin.)
B. The response
consists of all those persons being challenged drawing their coin in a like
manner (other organizational coins are invalid). C. If you are challenged
and are unable to properly respond, you must buy a round of drinks for the
challenger and the group being challenged.
D. If everyone being challenged responds in the correct manner, the
challenger must buy a round of drinks for all those people they challenged.
E. Failure to buy a round is a despicable crime and will require
that you turn-in your Coin to the issuing agency.
2. WHEN - WHERE
A. Coin checks are permitted, ANY TIME, ANY PLACE'.
A. There are no exceptions to
the rules. They apply to those clothed or unclothed. At the time of the
challenge you are permitted one step and an arms reach to locate your coin. If
you still cannot reach it -- SORRY ABOUT THAT!
4. A COIN IS A COIN
A. Coins attached on belt buckles are considered "belt buckles".
B. Coins on key chains are considered "key chains."
C. Coins placed in a "holder/clasp" and worn around the neck like a
necklace are valid and are considered a coin.
Never, ever, be caught without your Coin.
History of the Challenge Coin
World War I
During World War I, American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the
newly formed flying squadrons. Some were wealthy scions attending colleges such
as Yale and Harvard who quit in mid-term to join the war. In one squadron a
wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze carrying the
squadron emblem for every member of his squadron. He himself carried his
medallion in small leather pouch around his neck.
Shortly after acquiring the medallions, the pilot's aircraft was severely
damaged by ground fire. He was force to land behind enemy lines and was
immediately captured by a German patrol. In order to discourage his escape, the
Germans took all of his personal identification except for the small leather
pouch around his neck. In the meantime, he was taken to a small French town near
the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment that night, he escaped. However, he
was without personal identification.
He succeeded in avoiding German patrols and reached the front lines. With great
difficulty, he crossed no-man's land. Eventually, he stumbled onto a French
outpost. Unfortunately, the French in this sector had been plagued by saboteurs.
They sometimes masqueraded as civilians and wore civilian clothes. Not
recognizing the young pilot's American accent, the French thought him a saboteur
and made ready to execute him. Just in time, he remembered his leather pouch
containing the medallion. He showed the medallion to his would-be executioners.
His French captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion and delayed
long enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him, they gave
him a bottle of wine.
Back at his squadron, it became a tradition to ensure that all members carried
their medallion or coin at all times. This was accomplished through a challenge
in the following manner: a challenger would ask to see the coin. If the
challenged could not produce his coin, he was required to buy a drink of choice
for the member who challenged him. If the challenged member produced his coin,
the challenging member was required to pay for the drink. This tradition
continued throughout the war and for many years after while surviving members of
the squadron were still alive.
The fighting men and women of the 97 Intelligence Squadron proudly continue this
Operation Desert Storm
Taken from Soldiers Magazine Aug 94 Vol
49, No 8
Story by Maj. Jeanne Fraser Brooks
Within days of his liberation from a prisoner of war camp, Sgt. Troy Dunlap
received two Iraqi coins from an employee of the hotel where he and the other
U.S. POWs were being housed by the Red Cross following their release. "One for
you and one for me," he told Maj. Rhonda Cornum who also had been taken prisoner
when their UH-60 helicopter was shot down by members of Saddam Hussein's
Republican Guard during Operation Desert Storm. "We joked that we could use them
like military coins. ... We planned how we would use the Iraqi money to 'coin'
our friends when we got back to Fort Rucker," Cornum wrote in her book, "She
Went to War."
"Coining" is a relatively new U.S. military
tradition, but has roots in the Roman
Empire, where coins were presented to
reward achievements. In the U.S. military, the tradition goes back to the early
1960s. A member of the 11th Special Forces Group took old coins, had them
over-stamped with a different emblem, then presented them to unit members,
according to Roxanne Merritt, curator of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare
Museum at Fort Bragg, N.C.
A former commander of the 10th SFG picked up
on the idea, becoming the first to mint a unit coin for a U.S. military unit.
The 10th Group remained the only Army unit with its own coin until the
mid-1980s, Merritt said, when "an explosion took place and everybody started
minting coins." Originally, the coins, which bear the unit crest on the front
and whatever design the unit wants on the back, were given out by commanders and
sergeants major to recognize outstanding acts performed by soldiers in the
course of duty.
"They're a real morale booster," said Duvall,
"and tell the soldier, 'you're a member of our unit' which builds unit cohesion.
The soldiers carry their credit card, driver's license and unit coin - their
wallets are permanently deformed." Don Phillips, a former commander of the 20th
SFG, designed a coin for his unit and presented it to his soldiers when he
retired. "Another unit asked me to make a coin for them, and then another, so I
went into business making them," said Phillips. To date, Phillips has made coins
for "between 600 and 700 units." The tradition has spread to the other services
and is even being adopted by paramilitary units like the U.S. Marshall's SWAT
team, according to Phillips.
The proliferation of coins and their
availability to the general public in post gift shops has caused Dr. Joseph
Fisher, Special Operations Command historian, to view them as "not as special as
they used to be; there are so many of them out there now." But that doesn't stop
Fisher from carrying his with him at all times.
Making the coins available for purchase has
added yet another dimension to the tradition - collecting. SMA Richard A. Kidd
has approximately 300 of the coins on display in his office "museum." He has
even issued an open invitation to soldiers visiting the Washington, D.C., area
to stop by his office "even when I'm not here" to see his collection of unit
According to Phillips, World War II
soldiers were given a coin when they mustered out of the service.
But it wasn't until the
Vietnam era that a "challenge-response"
was added to the tradition of giving unit members a coin. The initial challenge
was to prove membership in a particular unit by producing the unit coin.
That was followed by the addition of the
requirement to "buy a round" if a soldier didn't have the coin. "Buying a round
isn't the only challenge these days," said Phillips. "Drinking is frowned on, so
the challenge can be anything. If you don't have your coin, you get the detail."
Kidd still uses the original premise in distributing coins and carries some with
him whenever he travels. "It's a way to immediately recognize above-and-beyond -
the-call-of-duty actions on the part of a soldier when you're in the field,"
Boer War in 1899
Some accounts go back to Britainís Boer War in 1899 that brought about the
tradition of awarding coins.