Custom military coins or challenge coins have become more than just collectors’ items because they are a tradition to the US Armed Forces. These coins represent service and sacrifice to the country in conflicts around the world. Each coin is unique to a military branch, unit and conflict.
The popularity of the custom military coins or what is more commonly known as the challenge coin escalated in the 1990’s when then United States of America President Bill Clinton received a large collection of coins from the military personnel. He displayed the gift in the Oval Office, and is often seen in pictures and in the official portrait of the former president. The collection, which is now on display at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, may have been the inspiration for the manufacture of custom military coins from the office of the president.
While military coins have become common in the pockets of politicians, government officials and staff in the White House, there are several rare challenge coins that are much sought after by active duty military members, veterans and civilians. And one of the rarest of all coins comes from the Executive Offices of the United States.
Maybe President Clinton was honored with the gift presented to him during his term, and wanted to return the favor by passing on the honor to worthy persons as well. Thus he was the first to introduce the idea of custom military coins or the Presidential Challenge Coin which are handed out by the President himself to important people that have supported the US in one way or another. Thus, the existence of the POTUS Coin or the President of the United States Coin, which bears the Seal of the President of the United States, which has become the rarest coin of all time.
The next presidents who succeeded him, particularly former President George W. Bush and current head of state, President Barack Obama, also have their own POTUS, commemorating important historic events, like the presidential inauguration. Each of these presidents usually passed their coins to military personnel, wounded military members and their families, as well as foreign dignitaries. These coins were transferred through a quick handshake, making the presentation of a discrete and prestigious honor.
To date, there are different variations of the custom military coins from the office of the President: one POTUS Clinton, four variations of the POTUS Bush and one POTUS Obama.
Some of the hard-to-find Challenge Coins include the coin given by a Marine combat patrol unit to then President George W. Bush during his unexpected visit to Al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province in Iraq in 2007; and the challenge coins placed by President Barack Obama on the memorials of the soldiers killed in the 2009 Fort Hood Shooting.
US Vice President Dick Cheney was the first Vice President to make a challenge coin, which became the VPOTUS (Vice President of the United States) Coin. To date, there are two variations of the VPOTUS Cheney and three variations of the VPOTUS Biden, crafted by present Vice President Joe Biden.
The POTUS Coin may be the rarest in the world, followed by the VPOTUS; rare military coins have also been made by the offices of the president’s cabinet, including the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense.
Custom military coins have indeed evolved through the years, thus, it is not only a source of pride born out of being identified with a military service or a momentous achievement, but a source of honor, especially when it is personally given through a handshake by the most respected individuals, not only in the United States but the world as well.
Possessing one of these military coins not only gives one a piece of history, but a sense of importance, in the eyes of not only of the military but the general public as well.