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CHALLENGE COIN HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

 

The China  Post #1 Doubloon/Interim Challenge Coin.  On 20 April 1995, the Post celebrated its 75th year as an .American Legion Post. Also, New Orleans, Louisiana (the state one of our namesakes, Gen Claire Chennault, called home) was chosen for our 75th birthday party/annual reunion in honor of these events, we have had a special coin struck. On the front of our unique doubloon/ challenge coin is the inscription "Generals Ward & Chennault & LT Helseth - China Post 1 Worldwide - Operating in Exile".  In the center is our Post dragon. The coin's reverse side is inscribed with the "China Post 1" name. In the center is the 75th anniversary diamond, flanked by the years "1920-1995". Below this are the words, "when duty calls we answer".

Following is a brief history of the Mardi Gras doubloon and the challenge coin. Both have been carried by elite groups over the years--it is only fitting that China Post 1 has its own coin to commemorate its 75th birthday.

History of the challenge coin: Elite military units have a long history of carrying some type of device to identify past and present members. The U.S. Special Forces are credited with the tradition of identifying unit members with a coin. The coins are designed with mottos of the particular units they represent. The 10th Special Forces group established the tradition of the group coin in 1969, group commander Vernon E Green designed and had the 10th Group coin manufactured. On the front side is the inscription: "10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) 1st Special Forces". In the center is the Trojan horse crest, the original SF crest worn during the 1950's, and below are the words "trojan horse". The reverse side is inscribed with the special forces motto: "de oppresso liber" and "the best". A beret with flash is centered over a scroll for engraving the owner's name or job specialty.

Once the 10th Group coin was minted, the tradition began calling for each group member to procure and carry a coin at all times. The actual history of the coin check--the challenge initiated by one SF to another demanding to see his group coin--varies greatly. The coin check was done primarily as a morale check to verify each unit member's team spirit/pride. Regardless of any established "coin check" regulations, most SF's prefer to carry their coins at all times--not only to show pride but also to save money on drinks they may have to buy if caught without it!

History of the Mardi Gras doubloon: starting after Christmas and continuing until lent, the carnival season in New Orleans begins. It is a time of masked balls, parties, and street parades with marching bands and decorated floats manned by masked krewe (club) members. The krewes may change themes each year but one thing remains the same-- those on the floats will toss "throws" to those along their route who are shouting, "throw me something mister." the throws can be plastic cups, beads, or the popular and famous "doubloon."

For those who have never been to Mardi Gras, the doubloon is a lightweight coin which carries The insignia of a particular krewe. The first Mardi Gras medallion/doubloon was introduced by King Rex (the traditional king of carnival) at the New Orleans world's fair in 1884 and it displayed the rex coat of arms. However, it did not become a "throw" until many years later. In early parades, it is said that flour was thrown and later, dust. Then rowdies began throwing unsuitable items which injured people which resulted in the outlawing of throws for a long period. Still, the idea persisted .and slowly regained popularity. In 1960, the now famous doubloon or lightweight version of the original coin was re-introduced and thrown by the rex krewes. It took the crowd by storm and in following years many would shout, ’’throw me a doubloon mister," thus making it a parade tradition.

The idea for the rex doubloon came from Alvin Sharpe, a retired ship's captain, who wrote to that krewe in 1959 saying he had designed some beautiful coins as a memento of Mardi Gras and adding, "they are harmless to throw." a rex captain approved the idea when Sharpe showed his design and how it could be thrown without injury. 83,000 doubloons were made up and thrown at the 1960 parade. In a short time almost every krewe had created its own version. Eventually the word doubloon became a generic term meaning any and all carnival medallions and it remains one of the most. Popular mementoes of the Mardi Gras season.

UPDATE:  Some Memorial Divisions have their own locally made coins which are also used to display pride in their organization. Often the different Divisions try to make the best coins of the Post.  Normally the Asian post have the advantage since so many coins are made in the Asian countries and shipped to US based military units.

 

Sent to webmaster by JC Bond, past Post Commander.

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