In addition to our limited edition 55th jackets, we wanted to make a cool collector item that tied to our heritage. It had to be something that Alpha fans would covet as a must-have for their collection. After much research we discovered the perfect item… a challenge coin. Just like Alpha, the challenge coins have a military story behind their origin.
It is said that the concept of the challenge coin started in the Army Air Corps in World War I. A wealthy lieutenant bought medallions with the squadron’s insignia on it for all the members of his unit. When a young pilot from his unit was shot down and captured by the Germans, the coin proved to be a lifesaver. When he escaped from his captors the pilot reached a French outpost and used his medallion to prove he was an American. The French recognized the squadron’s insignia and spared his life.
In addition to a symbol of membership to a particular armed forces unit, the coins also became a way to challenge other soldiers. A serviceman would slam his coin on a table or bar which would signal everyone else to show their coin. If someone couldn’t produce their coin, they would have to pay for everyone else’s meal or round of drinks. If everyone had their coins, the individual who threw the challenge would have to pick up the tab.
Challenge coins are still produced today for a variety of reasons. Some make them to show membership in an organization such as a sports team or university, while others do it to honor individuals for their service such as the presidents of the United States. The coins are often used to award people for a job well done, while others collect them to display. There is even a Challenge Coin Association that brings together collectors who love to discuss and showcase their coins. For Alpha, we couldn’t think of a more perfect way to pay tribute to our October 17, 1959, inauguration than with these anniversary challenge coins.