Author’s note: This post was put together in conjunction with WDW Radio family members Angel Ramos, Vanessa Prince, and Joshua Shusterman.
Over the years there have been so many different “Disney” items to collect: pins, figurines, paintings, mugs, and so much more. Some of these have increased in value and can be sold online, or are trade-able, which makes the hunt even more fun. But, did you know that the Walt Disney World Security Division has Challenge Coins that you can try to collect? I learned of these exclusive coins during a recent trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studio from my friend Angel Ramos who is a Security Operations Manager at the parks and part of the WDW Radio Running Team.
During our visit, someone came up to him and asked if he had a challenge coin, and he did not have any on him at the time. This peaked my curiosity – what is this coin you speak of? And how do you get one? He then proceeded to tell us the history behind the coins and how they have become increasingly popular at WDW. Traditionally the coins were used in military divisions as a way of identifying members in various branches. Angel told me the history and I want to share it with you.
What is a Challenge Coin you ask?
Rob Lammle at Mentalfloss writes “It’s nearly impossible to definitively know why and where the tradition of challenge coins began. One thing is certain: Coins and military service go back a lot farther than our modern age. Although no one is certain how challenge coins came to be, one story dates back to World War I, when a wealthy officer had bronze medallions struck with the flying squadron insignia to give to his men. Shortly after, one of the young flying aces was shot down over Germany and captured. The Germans took everything on his person except the small leather pouch he wore around his neck that happened to contain his medallion. The pilot escaped and made his way to France. But the French believed he was a spy, and sentenced him to execution. In an effort to prove his identity, the pilot presented the medallion. A French soldier happened to recognize the insignia and the execution was delayed. The French confirmed his identity and sent him back to his unit”.
What are Challenge Coins used for?
After World War II, Americans stationed in Germany made a few changes to a drinking challenge as they used their insignia coins instead of a German coin. Members of a squadron would put their coin down on the bar and “challenge” others to produce their coins. If you did not have your coin, you had to buy a round of drinks for everyone who had their coins. If everyone had their coins, then the challenger would have to buy the round.
Today, according to Joshua Shusterman from the WDW Radio Blog Team, there are still Challenge Coins in use in the military. But the present day spin is that, when you’re challenged, whoever has the lowest ranking coin buys the round of drinks. The trick is to rub elbows with the higher-ups to earn their coin that you can then use in a challenge. Joshua also mentioned that the Challenge Coins go all the way up to the Secretary of Defense.
Present Day Challenge Coins
Today, Challenge Coins can be found in many branches of the military, USA security details, police departments, even the President of the United States has one. They can even be found with the Walt Disney World Security Division! My friend Angel Ramos had a challenge of his own: to create and have approved a Challenge Coin for Walt Disney World Security. It was a long process from design, redesign, to legal approval and final production. But as you can see the WDW Challenge Coin is something very special. You can’t just ask for a coin, you either need to be given one for a special reason, or you must trade one of your own coins. You cannot alter them in any way, such as drilling a hole or making it into a necklace. It is ok to display them, but keep them safe as they are priceless.
Collecting Challenge Coins
So how do you get started on collecting Challenge Coins? Unless you are given one by a member of security or armed services you can probably purchase one online as a way to get started, but don’t forget you will have to trade it in order to get a new one. Also, not every member of WDW Security have these coins to trade. so don’t go running all over the parks asking for them. I will not be trading my Challenge Coin with anyone. It was given to me by a dear friend whom I respect, and it has great sentimental meaning to me, one that I want to cherish forever.
Note: The whole discussion on collecting Challenge Coins started when Angel mentioned that after listening to Lou Mongello’s WDW Radio podcast #491 on Top Ten Things to Collect in Walt Disney World with Tim Foster, he told Lou that Lou had missed talking about the challenge coins.
Brief History of Challenge Coin – Mentalfloss
Challenge Coin History and Rules of the Coin – GOAT Locker
Thank you to Angel Ramos and Joshua Shusterman for their contributions to this post.
Angel Ramos has spent 20 years in Law Enforcement: SWAT Unit, Dignitary Protective Division, Puerto Rico’s Governor Security Detail. Awarded with on Gold Medal for Valor for saving the another officer’s life. He has been working with Disney Security for the past three years.
Joshua Shusterman is a former United States Marine and has been stationed in both North Carolina and Hawaii.
Vanessa Prince is a fellow WDW Radio Blogger and loves all things Disney.
(Photo credit Angel Ramos, Joshua Shusterman, Beatrice Denis, all other photos are the property of the author)
To learn more about Andrew, aka Disney on Wheels, and read his recent posts for the WDW Radio Blog click on his name at the top of this post.