Challenge coin types vary in abundance due to why they are created in the first place. That said, most Air Force challenge coins fall into a couple common categories that are also repeated by other military branches as well. The first category involves rank. Military coins showing a classification rank can celebrate promotions, membership, level of service and similar. The Air Force uses a number of such rank coins from technical technician levels to the officer classes.
A number of Air Force areas also celebrate a member’s role in a particular career path. Such coins are referred to as “career field” challenge coins and typically get produced for and exchanged with Air Force specialist classes. A common challenge coin that tends to be more prevalent than others involves the base challenge coin. Most Air Force bases produce their own challenge coin which is made available both for personnel as well as visitors. Not surprisingly, memorial or commemorative challenge coins are common as well. However, these types of Air Force coins are limited production runs and related to a specific event, activity, or date.
The Air Force is unique in providing command challenge coins to its personnel for specific air command assignments. These coins are shaped like a shield rather than a round coin, making them stand out from other samples immediately. Operational coins are dedicated to specific military missions, and the Air Force has plenty of its own operation coins similar to other branches. These cover incidents and activities that can occur worldwide wherever the Air Force was involved.
Rare and Not So Common USAF Coins
Clearly historic challenge coins recognizing specific past events and operations are becoming harder to find. As many of the members of such units and operations begin to age and pass away, the coins are slowly disappearing, making it harder to find them for collections. Many coins from the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War era fall into this category. Those lucky enough to find them are holding onto such coins or commanding higher and higher prices for letting go.
Among the most prized historic Air Force challenge coins is the Bulldog coin. This particular gem was provided to the enlistee who was stationed at the rear of a B-52 bomber managing the tail gun. There are not many of them as tail-gunners remained functional only for a while until rockets came into vogue.
A number of oddball and unique coins exist as well which are hard to find. These include Air Force rugby team coins and specific business activities on particular operations. The Air Force Academy produces a rugby challenge coin which adds to the mystique of the rugby team camaraderie. Additionally, various administrative units within the Air Force also have their own coins just like the combat units, but these are harder to find with a much smaller population available. Even Air Force primary contractor vendors have been allowed to create and distribute Air Force specific project coins as well.
For those not in the Air Force or military, it may seem hard at first on how to go about finding Air Force challenge coins. However, it’s not. Most original owners tend to unload their old challenge coins or military nostalgia after a while or the property gets liquidated by people’s estates and garage sales.
A common location for finding coins for beginners tends to be online auction sites. The coins are small, hand-size, making them easy to photograph and ship to buyers. Like anything collectible, Air Force challenge coins can be easily found with a few targeted searches using auction search engines for available auctions. The prices may seem off-kilter, depending on rarity and demand, but many coins are definitely available.
Garage sales and community flea markets also tend to have coins every once in a while. These opportunities are a bit more hit and miss, but if someone chases down such events on a regular basis anyways, the coins do eventually pop up, sometimes with combined collections being liquidated. For those who are heavily into collecting military challenge coins, a number of networks and events occur annually by fan groups where Air Force coins and other military nostalgia can be exchanged, traded, bought or viewed. The best way to find these events is to join an online Air Force specific challenge coin discussion group. This can be in a forum, a bulletin board or an email group. Whatever the case, once you’re looped in, the event scheduling becomes available and you know where to find such meetings.