People come to collecting challenge coins through a variety of experiences, but one of the most common ways people become enthusiasts is by receiving military coins, doing a bit of research on them, and becoming totally engrossed in the world of challenge coin minting and trading.
Many military personnel receive their first challenge coin while they are stationed somewhere in a far corner of the world. After realizing the artistry that goes into these coins and the many fascinating stories behind them, they quickly become hooked. Each and every challenge coin tells a story in its design, some admittedly more compelling than others.
Other challenge coin collectors start out doing something related, like patch collecting and learn about coins through that pursuit. But many of today's most enthusiastic collectors earned their first coins while stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan and began trading them at different places where they are stationed, gradually building up a personally meaningful collection.
Collectors build up their collections through receiving them, trading, or buying. Some collectors keep certain coins because of their personal meaning and impact and do not trade or sell these particular specimens. When a person is awarded a challenge coin, they are receiving anothers expression of appreciation for having done something deserving a tangible token of that appreciation. Coins are generally not awarded except to those for whom the giver has a high regard. The understanding that their performance is appreciated is a powerful motivator, both short and long term for the receiver of a challenge coin.
Most people who have been awarded challenge coins, whether military or otherwise, are extremely appreciative and cherish the coins that they have been awarded. Each challenge coin symbolizes a particular person, event, or assignment that made an impact on the giver and receiver of the coin. Collectors hold onto these, because they are each the basis of an important chapter in their lives.
For example, if an Army Staff Sergeant in the course of his normal patrols reports suspicious activity in an area for which he or she was responsible, and if lives were saved because of this effort, he or she may receive a medal, but would likely also receive a coin given by their commander. The personal expression of appreciation by the commander makes the challenge coin a significant possession, forever linked to an action that was important to the unit.
Trading challenge coins can also be significant, because it establishes a bond between collectors. It is a great way for a person to expand a collection, because many of these traded coins also have fascinating stories behind them. With trading, both parties add something new to their collections, and may establish a long term bond with the person they trade with.
In some cases, buying challenge coins is the only way to acquire certain desired specimens. Many of the people who buy challenge coins may have no connection to the military or to law enforcement organizations, but still have a great appreciation for them, perhaps due to a family member or other significant person in their life. There is nothing wrong with buying challenge coins to build a collection. Whether earned, traded, or purchased, there is no question that challenge coins have a real impact on those who collect them.