Similar to other branches of the U.S. military, the U.S. Navy has its own rich history of challenge coin production. Created to memorialize a number of different types of Navy activities or personnel, challenge coins display the rich history of the naval military branch, and the Navy’s specific collection continues to grow with time.
The official purpose of the Navy’s challenge coins allows supervising personnel to provide subordinates a sense of team and a small reward symbolizing difficult tasks that have been achieved. This can be either through a promotion or completion of a mission. The achievement coins typically have some kind of a distinct motto printed on them as well. Given the core function of the U.S. Navy, many coins memorialize specific ships, carriers, and submarines. Crews will often receive a coin for the ship they have served on, building up a small collection over a career if assigned to more than one vessel. Additionally, Navy coins also cover rank, tasks, special military unit memberships, and bases. The naturally rarer type will be limited-run coins memorializing specific missions, and the longer in the past the mission gets, the harder it is to find.
As a historical resource, challenge coins cover a variety of events and naval resources that may not get much mention in history books that focus on much bigger events. In this respect, U.S. Navy challenge coins preserve a piece of history that otherwise might disappear in the shuffle of records. By the coin existing, it raises the question of what it represents. This in turn helps keep events and mission tasks alive in historical records because there is a need for reference. For military buffs, then, there is nothing more entertaining than holding a piece of actual history that can be tied to specific facts, especially if it was gained from a relative or contact who actually served in the Navy at that time or in that given incident.
Collecting U.S. Navy challenge coins works the same way as other military challenge coins, falling into two categories. The first approach is that a person actually serves in the Navy and receives the coins from supervisors and peers for service performed. If an officer or enlistee stays in the military branch long enough, he could reasonably collect a number of coins just for being assigned to specific naval bases if nothing else.
The second category generally applies to anyone who collects Navy coins outside of the military. This can happen through a gift, trading, purchasing, networking, and estate sale hunting. Many coins can be purchased at retail direct from the companies that produce them. Once a coin-minting company has the die for a coin design, it typically retains the copyright so it can produce and sell additional copies as demand dictates. Purchases can also be made in private sales from individuals, garage sales, estate sales, and from military collectors or surplus stores. In each case, the higher the demand is for a particular coin and rarity, the higher the price will be to the collector.
U.S. Navy coins also come in a number of different types aside from those memorializing individual vessels. Other categories can include:
Locations – While naval bases are common, more specific locations can be a bit uncommon. For example, the Bethesda Naval Hospital is a unique example not seen every day in coin collections. Bases, on the other hand, are quite prolific with examples including the Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada, the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, and the famous Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California.
Functions – Functional challenge coins don’t necessarily have to be associated with missions. They can include vessel task groups as well as unique ships that singular functions. The Naval Greyhounds of the Sea challenge coin memorializes the benefit of destroyer groups. Specific coins also memorialize air craft carriers and supporting groups as well. One of the few odd-shaped naval challenge coins is the one produced for the U.S. Naval Police. It’s shaped like a badge rather than a round coin.
Navy-Related Roles – Like other military branches, the U.S. Navy produces a coin for spouses as well, often left behind to maintain families while an enlistee or officer serves on the sea. Additionally, coins may be specific to historical acknowledges such as the coin for the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned vessel still operating.
Not surprisingly, some U.S. Navy coins are associated with fund-raising. A number of naval units have taken advantage of the Combating Terrorism coin design, adding their own logo. Purchase of a few particular coins provides 25% of proceeds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which helps financially support the education of children of special ops personnel killed in while in service.