The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 1, January 1, 2012, Article 5


Martin Purdy writes:

Attached is a press release describing the recently published catalogue listing all of the New Zealand or NZ-related "Challenge Coins" that we have been able to locate since the Catalogue of NZ Commemorative Medals 1941-2007 was published two years ago.

New Zealand Challenge Coins MacMaster, H., and Purdy, M., New Zealand Challenge Coins: A Catalogue, RNSNZ, Wellington, 2011
A4, soft cover, 124 pages, colour illustrations.
Edition limited to 120 copies.
ISBN 978-0-473-19541-0
Price including postage NZ$45 anywhere within NZ; A$45 to Australia and US$50 elsewhere.

The new catalogue of NZ Challenge Coins was officially launched at the Christmas meeting of the Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand on 7 December. This is the second book in the series of paranumismatic/exonumia titles that the Society is publishing, following the 2009 “MacMaster” Catalogue of New Zealand Commemorative Medals 1941-2007, and is in the same general format.

The technical difficulty that beset the commemorative medals book at the last minute has been resolved, so the images are much clearer in the new publication, as well as being larger (50 mm rather than 35 mm), in colour and on semi-gloss rather than plain paper.

For those who are wondering what “Challenge Coins” are, they started out in life in the military, essentially as regimental/unit medals - the idea being that you carried one as a sort of ID token (a similar function to communion tokens, after a fashion), and the “challenge” part arose when a member of the unit would produce his example in the bar, and everyone else present had to do the same. Failure to come up with your medal meant you had to buy a round for everyone, or so the story goes.

They have moved on from there to become a subset of commemorative medals, marking regimental anniversaries, the commissioning of new navy vessels, overseas deployments (Sinai/Afghanistan/Timor), etc., and are now spreading to non-military issuers - various Government Ministers and Ambassadors carry them (to give out as goodwill/presentation items?) and there are examples from other civilian entities such as the Salvation Army or Civil Defence, to name but two. The RNSNZ also adopted the Challenge Coin format for its 80th anniversary medal in 2011.

There were eight Challenge Coins listed in an appendix to the 2009 catalogue of post-1940 medals, and since then we (mainly Hamish) have tracked down over 200 made for, or associated with, New Zealand entities, which we realised needed a book of their own. More and more examples have been surfacing on the on-line auction site TradeMe, though mintages for individual types are generally low. While some may be sold to anyone who wants one, others are issued only to members of the unit or crew at a specific event.

Listings in the book are grouped into three sections: Armed Forces, Ministers of the Crown and New Zealand Others (Governmental / Civilian), with further subdivisions under these headings. Because few are actually dated, they are not generally grouped chronologically, though some sub-sets appear in date order where it appeared possible and logical to do so (e.g. dated issues marking the commissioning of NZ Navy vessels). Full descriptions are given where available, and all major types are illustrated. Prices are not given as a rule, though some recent sale prices observed by the authors have been noted as a rough guide.

The item on the cover was issued to mark the recovery of the medals stolen from the National Army Museum at Waiouru a few years ago. The makers initially used the incorrect legend RETURN OF THE VICTORIA CROSSES but these were withdrawn (limited numbers were given to dignitaries and staff at Waiouru; the rest were sent back to the makers) and a corrected version made in a slightly larger run reading RETURN OF THE MEDALS.

Contact either of the authors directly at or to order a copy. For convenience, buyers can pay by Paypal (US$52.50 to, or alternatively US$50 if you select the “buyer pays fees” option). p>

New Zealand Challenge Coins sample page
Sample entry

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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