The Maple Leafs’ challenge coin is on the march.
Bearing the Leafs insignia and a tableau with a Leafs and Canadian flag over a rocky shore, the coins are a talisman, conversation piece and exclusive collectible for Leaf lovers.
Five hundred coins priced at $24.99 each will be manufactured in the first limited edition and unveiled at Real Sports Apparel on Canadian Forces Night, February 19 when the Leafs host the Ottawa Senators. Twenty-five percent of the sale price of the coin and other military themed products will be forwarded to the Military Family Fund.
There are as many stories about the origins of challenge coins as there are coins.
One tale has a World War I pilot downed over France. German soldiers stripped him of his identification, but did not know of a specially-made unit medallion he kept in a leather pouch that hung around his neck.
When he escaped, the soldier used the coin to convince French troops he should not be shot as a saboteur.
Another story traces the coins to Vietnam. U.S. troops had begun carrying bullets, fragments and shells from near misses. Officers saw danger in that much live ammo being carried about and minted the coin to establish a safer standard for souvenirs.
Some elements of challenge coin ownership are universal. The coins are a badge of comradery. To be without the coin that bears the insignia of your unit or branch of the service is considered a deep humiliation.
The challenge element comes from the custom of someone challenging a coin holder to produce his or her coin. If the coin could not be furnished, the person without the coin was obliged to buy a drink or some other commodity for the issuer of the challenge.
Challenge coins are widely circulated to promote morale. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton displayed the coins given to him by soldiers in his White House portrait. The Royal Military College in Kingston issues challenge coins. So do fire fighting brigades as well as police and fire academies.