Challenge Coin Rules, History and Tradition

Challenge Coin Rules, History and Tradition

The history and rules surrounding Challenge Coins still aren’t clear to many, including those that have had a “Coin Check” pulled on them.

Challenge Coins typically feature an organization’s insignia and are carried by their members. During a “Coin Check” they can prove membership, enhance morale, or wind up costing you a round of drinks if you’ve forgotten yours at home. In keeping with the tradition of Challenge Coins heavily rooted in the military, we’ve produced our own here at ITS so that you can give them out for recognition, or simply carry an awesome coin in your pocket in case you get challenged.

Below we’ve listed out what we feel are the definitive Challenge Coin Rules. While we've never officially seen them printed anywhere, the rules below were displayed on a laminated sheet inside the Navy UDT-SEAL Museum when we visited back in 2012.

Challenge Coin Rules

Note: A “Coin Check” consists of a Challenge and a Response.


  • 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.)
  • The response consists of all those persons being challenged drawing their coin in a like manner.
  • 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.
  • If everyone being challenged responds in the correct manner, the challenger must buy a round of drinks for all those people they challenged.
  • Failure to buy a round of drinks is a despicable crime and will require that you turn-in your Coin to the issuing agency.


Coin checks are permitted, any time, any place.


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 arm's reach to locate your coin. If you still can't reach it, sorry about that.

Challenge Coin History and Tradition

The story we like best, (there are quite a few floating around, though none have been proven accurate) dates back to WWII when the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) was deployed into Nazi-held France. Their coins were simply local coins that acted as bona fides during meetings to verify the identity and authenticity of an OSS agent.

Specifics on the coin were examined by each party that would identify friend from foe. This prevented infiltration by a spy who might have advance knowledge of the meeting time, place and even what coin was to be presented.

The first military unit known to have a true Challenge Coin was the oldest Special Forces unit in the Army, the 10th Special Forces Group. Green Berets were the only known units to have coins prior to the creation of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in 1987. Since then, the Challenge Coin tradition has spread far and wide in both the military and the private sector. There probably isn’t a US President, or government official, today without one.

Click here to pick up your ITS Prevail Challenge Coin!

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