Centuries ago, metal coins were used to celebrate special events. Today, specially-designed coins are manufactured to commemorate occasions and to honor members of the host organization. Well, if you’re interested in the history of these coins, just continue reading.
Romans were the earliest users of custom coins. They gave Roman colonial coins to their military legions to mark successful battles against enemies of the empire. They were awarded to soldiers who’ve shown bravery and loyalty. Roman coins were made of precious metals such as gold, silver, and bronze. These coins were valuable and could be used on wine and women.
Masons and Minting
Masons issued masonic coins during the 19th century and they called them Masonic Tokens. This tradition of giving metal tokens to their members still exists and they continue minting coins.
During the Civil War, custom coins were made to replace the currency which suffered shortages. Some of these coins became symbols. One example is the 1863 coin bearing US flags on one side, and the statement “If anyone tries to tear it down, shoot him on the spot” on the other. During times of war, there were more than 11,000 coins accounted for. These coins were classified into two types. The first type was composed of coins minted to add to the supply US currency and used to redeem products. The second type included military coins or challenge coins.
One unique feature of military coins was the fact that they’re minted from metal parts of ships. These metal coins were sold to raise funds for the restoration of the vessel or just to commemorate the vital role of ships during times of war. The original protective copper sheets of HMS Victory and USS Constitution were minted into custom coins.
Stories of War
During World War I (1914-1918), the story of how a bronze medallion with the insignia of a flying squadron saved the life of one of the pilots spread. When his plane was shot down, the pilot was captured by Germans who took all his belongings except the leather pouch he tied around his neck. Inside it was the medallion given by his officer. His officer was wealthy and wanted to give his squad members tokens to commemorate their important mission.
When the pilot got a chance to escape, he went to France. Unfortunately, French authorities thought he was a spy and sentenced him to death. He needed something to prove his identity and remembered the medallion. One of the officers recognized the insignia and confirmed his affiliation. He was spared from execution and was sent back to his country.
During World War II (1939-1945), one interesting account was about the “Bulldog challenge coins” which were issued to enlisted members of B-52 gunners. These brave men would fly underneath the plane in a pod and were tasked to shoot approaching enemy planes. Behind every bulldog coin is a touching tale. Anyone who owned these custom coins considered them as prized possessions.
During the Korean War (1950-1953), Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Quinn of the 17th Infantry Regiment had coins minted for his men. The coin featured a buffalo image on one side and the insignia of the Regiment on the opposite side. There was a hole drilled on the upper part of the coin so they were used as medallions.
In 1969, 10th Special Forces Group A commanding officer Colonel Verne Greene followed Col. Quinn’s action. He ordered custom coins bearing the crest and motto of his unit. His tradition of giving metal tokens to welcome men in his group continued up to the 1980s.
These recorded historical accounts show how priceless these coins are. They are symbols of courage, honor, and pride of the men and women who choose to serve their country.
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