Air Force challenge coins have been called military coins, unit coins, commander's coins and a variety of other names. The reasoning behind calling them challenge coins is due to the rules that follow the coin.
According to one interpretation of these rules, if a group of military members - from any of the armed services - goes out together one person can call for a 'coin check.' The group must be within arms reach of each other. If everyone has their coin, the person who challenged the group to show their coins must buy drinks for everyone. If one person cannot produce their coin, they must buy for everyone.
Other rules are recognized for the Air Force challenge coins as well. The challenge can be made by one member to another by tapping their coin on the bar or a table or showing it to everyone in the group. They name the person they are challenging to produce their coin and if the person produces it within 60 seconds, the challenger buys them a drink. If they do not, they must buy the challenger a drink.
Still another rule is if a challenge is made and the coin drops on the floor, everyone who sees or hears the coin dropping is owed a drink by the owner of the coin. There are a variety of rules that are observed by those who carry these coins. Regardless of the challenges that are made by members who carry Air Force challenge coins, they have become a distinctive character of the military expressing beliefs and attitudes.
The coins are given to members of the Air Force for service that sets an example for others to follow. In addition, the coins strengthen morale and are separate from the awards and achievements denoted by the patches and ribbons that are placed on uniforms. An act that may not qualify for an official award, but may be just as important to the unit can be recognized by the giving of an Air Force challenge coin.
Each military coin is unique with the logo or the identifying mark of a particular squadron. They are typically made of some type of metal including bronze, gold, copper, nickel and silver. There is a logo that may include why the coin was given or it can be the name and number of the squadron. The coins do not have to be round. They can be custom made in many different shapes.