Military coins started to appear in the United States after a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions made from bronze to be distributed to his squadron during World War I. The tradition of giving such coins still exists today. This tradition also spread worldwide, resulting to different challenge coins appearing in different countries.
The British probably got the idea of distributing challenge coins after some British medical units worked with US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2006, the Department of Military Anasthesia and Critical Care, a British organization sending support for UK forces worldwide, has been distributing coins to its members. This organization not only provides support, but actively conducts studies that will aid the country.
Canada is among the countries to first use challenge coins. Its Canadian Airborne Regiment was the first Canadian Forces to distribute military coins. The concept of introducing these coins to members, however, began in the 1970s. General Rick Hillier introduced the use of challenge coins in the Canadian Forces after the local army worked closely with US Army. From the forces, local service groups like fire departments and police forces embraced the use of challenge coins to showcase brotherhood and bond.
American personnel influenced Australian politicians and NCOs to use challenge coins. Several of the challenge coins distributed are for the Royal Australian Air Force, utilizing different designs according to their units or teams.
While there are no actual reports indicating its use of challenge coins, several sellers offer special edition military coins coming from its local bases. One is the 50th Anniversary commemorative coin from the Naval Air Facility in Atsugi, Japan.
Sellers report that the coin is extremely rare and one of the few pieces available since it was produced in very limited numbers. The coin is marketed as a memorabilia that showcases the Navy’s relationship with the Asian country and its half-a-decade old naval aviation branch.
The shiny coin features texts, insignias, an etched image of Mount Fuji, and a red torii gate (a structure seen in Japanese shrines).Aside from this coin, the Kadena Air Base coin is also sold as a collectible coin online. The base is located in Okinawa, Japan.
The Philippines Forces supposedly have their own challenge coins, but these are often sold online and there are no actual reports supporting the tradition’s popularity among troops. However, several organizations order commemorative coins to celebrate troops and veterans. Commemorative coins include WESTPAC Sailors coins.
The Americans introduce military coins to the Swiss Armed Forces during their training missions and assignments. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe called for the two countries’ armed forces’ collaboration for specific missions. Unlike in the United States, the authorities don’t issue coins, but can be distributed by Swiss officers who order and pay for them.
Official reports about Chinese troops’ challenge coins are unavailable. However, some images online show the availability of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) coins. There are those who claim that these coins commemorate the PLA, which was founded in 1927. PLA is said to be a large fighting force with over 2 million soldiers.
The brass coin’s front design has English and Chinese texts and the red star, which is the most common symbol associated with China. The back design showcases an etched image of the Great Wall of China, the country’s most popular tourist destination.
These are only a few of the countries that began embracing the tradition of military coins for their troops. These coins symbolize brotherhood, reminding soldiers of hard-fought battles while in the frontlines. Many of these coins are rare and can be good collectibles for enthusiasts.
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