Custom military coins have an interesting origin. They began as intricately decorated and boldly colored coins given to Ancient Roman soldiers for their service in addition to regular wages. The coins were as good as gold or silver in those times and could be spent or traded for all sorts of things their owners desired. Only, the coins were so elaborately made that more and more of these soldiers developed an attachment to them.
They preferred to collect instead of spend them as the coins not only represented a day’s hard earned pay, but were also beautiful remembrances of how they had sacrificed much more than the ordinary citizen. The more coins a soldier had, the more pride he felt about himself and in serving his country. The coins transformed from being simple items of trade into evidence of valour and loyalty to the state.
Centuries later, it was precisely this deep, multi-faceted sense of sentimentality that gave way to both the practical use of and many symbolism these coins have today.
Although no longer financially useful, the coins’ main purpose is for soldiers to be able to prove that they had indeed served in a specific unit. Custom military coins are a type of challenge coin and are named as such because they are usually brought into view when a “challenger” requests such proof of service. Considering that designs are made to be unique from unit to unit, a coin is meant to speak for itself. When a challenger, fellow soldier, or even a well-informed civilian recognizes a design, images of what had transpired in a particular battle should easily come to mind. In one glance, these coins should be the best visual aids of the stories they tell.
Secondly, these coins were given out to boost morale and encourage camaraderie. Given that they are awarded to a group and not an individual, this tells soldiers that they managed to work seamlessly together, that their cooperation and consideration of one another was impeccable; all of which are qualities needed by men fighting on the same side against a common threat. The units awarded with their customized coins became an example to and set the standard for other soldiers going down similar paths.
Custom military coins have also managed to transcend the otherwise solid military hierarchies and have become tokens of true and equal brotherhood. From privates to sergeants, from corporals to even generals, all members of one unit will all be given the same coin. No one gets less, no one gets more; the coins do not delineate between superiors and inferiors. The significance of ranks is replaced by the knowledge that they have all become brothers at arms fighting on the same side and making victories for the same reasons.
Lastly, custom military coins serve as a great comfort for soldiers.
All service man are acutely aware of the fact that they may never be part of the same unit the next time they are called to duty, that friends and loved ones may become casualties that they themselves may retire from service, never to be around the same soldiers again. The coins they are given may very well be all what is left to remind them of the bonds they made.
Although soldiers have their lives outside of warfare to return to as well as family and friends to welcome them back, they still feel closest to those who can relate to the full range of emotional, mental, and physical experiences they were exposed to while on the battlegrounds. To these soldiers, knowing that others hold the same coin dear to them is equivalent to knowing that they will always have companions long after the dust has settled.
At the end of the day, when custom military coins are resting snugly in a soldiers’ pocket, are neatly tucked into a safety deposit box or are resting solemnly on dressers, they tell their owners only one thing: regardless of seniority, bullets fired and bullets dodged, whether they stay in service or reenter the realms of civilian living, they are and will always be men and women of honor who are the pride and protection of the country they have so bravely served.
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