Not everybody is familiar with military coins. The people who are usually very knowledgeable about these coins are the members of the military units themselves and their families.
Here are five interesting things that you maynot be aware of regarding these coins.
1. Do you know how these coins started?
Many stories have been told regarding the origin of these coins. One of the earliest story known occurred in Ancient Rome during the war. After a day’s battle, the enlisted soldiers usually lined up to receive their pay. The commanding officer of the unit would usually add what they call “bonus coins” to the regular pay of those soldiers who performed very well during the battle. These coins bore special marks signifying which unit they came from. These coins represented bravery and exemplary performance. The soldiers valued these coins and kept them, instead of spending them.
2. Do you know why it is sometimes called as military challenge coins?
Military coins are known as challenge coins. Why? There was a local tradition that started way back World War II. The German nationals would slam the table with a pfennig check, which was the lowest denomination of coins then, and as a response, one should show a pfennig check, too. Failure to do so would mean the challenged man would pay a round of drinks to the challenger and to the rest of the men with pfennig checks. However, if the coin was produced, the challenger would be the one to pay the round of drinks. This tradition was meant for camaraderie and fun. When some of the Americans saw this, they imitated the tradition and replaced the pfennig checks with military coins to challenge other members of their team. That was how it was called as challenge coins.
3. Do you know that there are several ways to acquire these coins?
Originally, you can only acquire these special coins by joining the armed forces. These coins signify allegiance to a specific unit. Military coins were also given during recognition of stellar performances in war or other heroic activities. Today, even civilians can own military coins. Usually, these coins were handed down from the older generation to the next one in the family. It has become a heirloom, whether it is financially valuable or not. The stories behind the coins are in themselves, legacies of the family already. Others receive these coins as gifts. Lastly, one can be an owner of the coins by buying them. There are many shops online making and selling specialized coins. You could also find special coins being auctioned.
4. Are you aware of the secret handshake?
Placing the coins in the palm and transferring it unto the hands of deserving soldiers during a handshake was done during the 2nd Boer War. The British, in their fight against the South African Colonists, hired mercenaries to aid them. As mercenaries, they were not allowed to receive medals for exemplary services done during the war. Instead, these medals were forwarded to non-deserving commanding officers. According to the story, the non-commissioned officers would secretly get the medal, cut the ribbon and hand it to the brave mercenaries as their way of showing appreciation.
5. Do you know what is the status of the coins now?
Military coins have evolved. Today, there are many non-military coins in existence. They were made for the same reasons as the original coins. They are used as a form of identity, to show appreciation for excellent work, and to promote camaraderie and brotherhood. In addition, they are also being distributed as promotional items and gifts.
Military coins were also given during recognition of stellar performances in war or other heroic activities.