All challenge coins are usually designed by a specific Recruit Battalion/Company. The coins are one-of-a-kind and can only be purchased at the Gift Shop or online store. Replicas sold by other vendors have not been approved/sanctioned by the Society’s Gift Shop.
During World War I, American volunteer pilots joined the newly formed flying squadrons. A lieutenant ordered solid bronze medallions and presented them to pilots from his unit. One pilot placed the medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore around his neck.
Shortly after getting his medallion, the pilot’s aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire, and he was forced to land behind enemy lines. He was immediately captured by a German patrol, who took all of his personal identification except for the small leather pouch around his neck. That night, taking advantage of a bombardment, the pilot escaped from his captors. However, he didn’t have any personal identification.
With great difficulty he crossed no-man’s land, and eventually stumbled into a French outpost. Not recognizing the pilot’s American accent, the French thought he was a saboteur and were going to execute him. The pilot had no identification to prove his allegiance, but showed the medallion to his would-be executioners, and one of the French soldiers recognized the squadron insignia. Instead of executing him, they gave him a bottle of wine.
Back at the pilot’s squadron, it became tradition to ensure that all members of the squadron carried with them a medallion or coin at all times.
The term “challenge coin” came about when a “challenger” would ask to see the medallion. If the challenged could not produce a medallion, the was required to buy a drink of choice for the challenger. If the challenged member produced a medallion, then the challenging member was required to pay for the drink. This tradition continued on throughout WWI and to the present day.