06 March 2013

Howard Tayler's Challenge: 'Tell Us About Your Coins!'

For the uninitiated, challenge coins are useless chunks of worthless metal, but are much-prized in some military circles. One story goes that you're supposed to carry your best coin with you at all times, and slap it down on the bar when challenged. Whoever has the lowest-ranking coin—they're often emblazoned with the rank or position of the official who first presented it—buys the next round.

For the record, I have never seen a challenge coin used in such a way.

Instead, they're more likely to be collected for personal, commemorative, or sentimental value. Coins are easy to carry, easy to display, and don't take up valuable "love-me" wall space. In some units, coins are presented as "attaboy" and "attagirl" awards, for accomplishments worthy of more than a certificate, but less than a medal. They mean something, but often not too much.

Each one is guaranteed, however, to be worth one or more war stories, the kind most likely to start with "the commander gave me this for ..." More on coin-operated war stories in a minute.

"This coin won't buy you anything," one of my favorite leaders would say in his standard presentation speech, "but I hope you'll value it, as much as your peers and leaders value you."

Challenge coins are like Pogs. Or marbles. Or Pokémon.

Everybody can play, from the lowliest Joe to the commander-in-chief himself. An official portrait of President Bill Clinton even features a challenge coin collection in the background.

See Howard Tayler's Kickstarter proposal here.
Writer and artist Howard Tayler recently engaged his readers with a Kickstarter pitch: If readers pledged $1,800, Tayler would design and issue a "Tagon's Toughs" challenge coin. The Kickstarter campaign ends Fri., March 22, at 10 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Captain Kaff Tagon is a character in Tayler's web comic "Schlock Mercenary."

In past Red Bull Rising blog posts, I've previously mentioned with great admiration Tayler's "70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries."

As of this writing, readers have pledged more than $90,000, and Tayler has proceeded to deliver designs for another 10 coins. One features Maxim No. 2 on one side: "A Sergeant in motion outranks a Lieutenant who doesn't know what's going on."

And, on the reverse, Maxim No. 3: "An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody."

There is also a Klingonesque premium coin, which will be available as an add-on for those who have pledged. The coin, which does double-duty as a bottle opener, is labeled as a "7-23 Tool." The nomenclature is a possible reference to historical mess-kit helpers, like the venerable P-38 military-issue can opener.

Appropriately, the 7-23 features Maxim No. 7: "If the food is good enough the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire."

And Maxim No. 23: "The company mess and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart."

As I mentioned before, however, every coin has a story, and Tayler is at heart a story-teller, not a coin-maker. Here's what he and his wife Sandra are prepared to create, if the Kickstarter campaign goes past $100,000:
This is not a coin. It is a service, a way for me to say "thank you" to everyone who has ever earned a coin from their command, and to anyone who has ever fumbled for a coin at the bar and wondered what in the name of guided fire was going on.

It is a 100-man-and-woman-hour project.

And you can help with it.

Sandra and I will collect challenge coin traditions from you, from our friends in the military, from friends of friends ... we will collect anecdotes, horror stories, and house rules.

We will assemble these into a definitive, unofficial (because there can be no official) guide to challenge coins.

I will do spot illustrations, including single-panel comics featuring irony, absurdity, and hilarity.

Contributions must be sourced. That means if you have an anecdote to share, it needs to be YOUR story, and you need to put YOUR name on it. We don't want "I heard about this one guy ..." tales. We want "I was standing at the canteen in Kuwait, back in 1998 when ..." or some variation thereof. Tell us what happened. Tell us how your unit used coins.

If you want to contribute, email schlockmercenary@gmail.com with the subject line "STRETCH 9 SUBMISSION." Sandra and I will be editing these for spelling and grammar, and perhaps polishing the prose a bit for clarity. If there are details that need to be omitted for security purposes, please omit them BEFORE sending.
For more details on Tayler's Kickstarter campaign, click here.

1 comment:

  1. "This coin won't buy you anything," one of my favorite leaders would say in his standard presentation speech, "but I hope you'll value it, as much as your peers and leaders value you."Military Coins


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