Custom military coins are coins or any form of medallion embedded with the emblem or insignia of a military organization. These coins are given and held by the members of a military group. Conventionally, custom military coins are given as proof of membership, especially when challenged by another group. These are also given to increase the self-esteem of military men. Service members of the military organization also collect these coins. Usually, unit commanders provide this coin to a member, who has shown excellence in his performance or any form of achievement, as a sign of recognition. Some military organizations give custom military coins to those who visit their camp.
Many stories are made about the history of custom military coins. Based on the most widespread story, these coins were first made in World War I. A lot of American volunteers from different cities headed the flying squadrons. Some of them were rich students from renowned universities like Harvard and Yale. These students decided to join the war instead of taking their midterm examinations. In a certain squadron, a rich lieutenant distributed bronze medallions among his subordinates. One of these subordinates kept it in a tiny leather bag tied around his neck.
After receiving the military coin, the squadron’s aircraft were heavily damaged by fire. This situation forced the pilot to land near the enemy’s territory which made it easy for the German patrol to capture him. To prevent him from escaping, the German army gathered all his personal things except for the tiny leather bag, which is tied around his neck. He was transported to a little French town. His men attacked the German army, giving him the chance to escape. He disguised himself by wearing civilian clothing and went to the frontlines, avoiding all German patrols.
Afterwards, he stopped at a French outpost. However, French troops became strict in guarding the area since there are many saboteurs who often dress like civilians. The French guards did not recognize his American accent, and believed that he was one of the saboteurs. They decided to execute him since he has no proof of allegiance. However, he showed his military coin to the executioners. The French guards recognized the emblem of the military organization embedded on the medallion. The execution was postponed long enough for the American to prove his identity. In the end, instead of killing him, they let him drink some wine.
After that incident, squadron leaders ensured that all men will be given custom military coins as a sign of allegiance. Another tradition is to challenge a member to show his medallion. If the member cannot produce his own medallion, then he needs to give a drink that the challenger wants. If the member successfully produced a medallion, he can ask for a drink of his choice from the challenger. This tradition has been done throughout World War I and even after.
Based on another story, these coins started way back in World War II. Personnel of the Office of Strategic Service used these coins when they were deployed in Nazi. These coins served as “Bona Fides” in every meeting to identify one’s identity. This became their strategy to ensure that no spy can join their meeting.
In the present, military coins may be given by the unit commanders to the members upon joining their group. Such tokens can also serve as a piece of recognition to improve one’s morale. Some military organizations usually sell these coins in a fundraising event or any event commemorating special occasions. Giving military coins to the members of a military organization is still done in the present time.