Challenge Coins and the Fire Service

IMG_1318Over the past 10 years or so, the fire service has heavily adopted the military challenge coin. From F.O.O.L.S. chapters to IAFF locals to volunteer departments, and even companies, firefighters have used custom challenge coins to share their Brotherhood with others.

While the beginnings of challenge coins may be questionable, most point to World War 1 as the beginnings of this tradition. Beings that the military began the ritual of not only creating coins, but trading and “challenging” with them, it is only fitting that the fire service has taken the idea and run with it since there are so many veterans in the fire service.

I cannot say what coin was my first…It seems like once I got my first one, so many others came quickly. My collection now includes around 178 coins and 35 “chips”. The chips are ceramic “poker” style chips that in all respects are a challenge coin, yet are made differently and cost significantly less.

The coins I have are mostly round, the most common size being 1 3/4″. Others are various sizes and some even include bottle openers in them.

Challenge coins can be found for military, the fire service, law enforcement, EMS, and more.

IMG_1320So what is the Challenge exactly?

Challenges may vary by region or organization, but basically…

A coin check is initiated in one of two ways: Loudly saying “Coin Check” or slamming your coin down on the bar. Whoever does not have their challenge coin (for a specific unit) or a challenge coin at all, must buy the group who does a round of drinks. If everyone produces a coin, the person who initiates a coin check must buy the round.

To  be honest though, I have rarely seen a coin check while out at a bar with other firemen. I think that is because of the fear that everyone will have one.

Where can you get coins?

  1. Trade a coin. Pretty much all of my coins have been given to me through trading. Over the years, I have handed out hundreds of coins. I have never really insisted on a trade, unless I am down to my last few. I will hold on to them specifically for those who are interested in trading.
  2. Buy a coin. Over the years, I have bought coins on occasion. For example, while at FDIC or Firehouse Expo, I have been known to purchase a coin that supports an organization like a Pipes and Drums band.

You can find some coins online for sale as well. Click here to find the coin, coin, and the Indy on Fire coin. Don’t worry, the all new Fire Critic coin will be available in the next couple of months.

Where can I get coins made?

ECA logo finalWhile there are numerous custom challenge coin companies out there, I am impartial to one. Engine Co. Apparel prides themselves on customer service. Full disclosure: I am a co-owner of ECA. We have designers who can get your coin made the way you want it. Our National sales manager for challenge coins and patches is Andrew Catron who runs the popular site

While we don’t have anything negative to say about other coin companies, nor would we if we did…I will say that what separates us from most is that we can not only design your logo and create your coin, we can also do patches, apparel, and many other products displaying your organization/company.

If you are interested, contact ECA today at and we will get you in contact with Andrew immediately.