Huntington County sheriff’s ‘challenge coins’ have unique stories, uses and looks

Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel shows off some of his collection of challenge coins, medallions he’s collected from other law enforcement agencies — as well as non-police groups — from across the country.
Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel shows off some of his collection of challenge coins, medallions he’s collected from other law enforcement agencies — as well as non-police groups — from across the country. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Oct. 16, 2017.

Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel pulls a handful of shiny medallions from his desk drawer and starts spreading them out on his desk.

Each of the medallions — he calls them “challenge coins” — has a story.

Some came from other law enforcement agencies, including local, state and federal agencies; a couple came from political parties.

And police K-9s, including the HCSPD dog, Zeek, have also gotten in on the act.

Challenge coins have long been used in the military, Stoffel says. Military police hand them out as rewards and the bearer can take the coin to the canteen to trade for a drink.

Outside the military, Stoffel says, “It’s a thing that agencies trade back and forth and try to collect … I know a lot of people who collect them.”

The coins started becoming popular about a decade ago, but they’ve been around a lot longer than that.

“I used to see them intermittently back when I was police chief,” says Stoffel, who served as chief of the Huntington Police Department for eight years prior to his service on the sheriff’s department.

Stoffel began collecting the coins when he became sheriff seven years ago. In that time, he’s accumulated 55 to 60 of the medallions.
“I just get them when I run into people,” he says.

“My very first one was from the Indiana Sheriff’s Association. It was the first conference I went to, and they passed one out to everybody.”

Each department or officer designs a unique coin, he explains.

“I decided on our coin to put the American flag there,” Stoffel says.

One side bears the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department badge in the shape of a star, and the other shows an image of the Huntington County Courthouse.

“I decided to showcase our courthouse because I think it’s such a prestigious structure,” he says.

A coin from a Grant County agency showcases the courthouse from that county.

“There is so much neat art involved,” Stoffel says of the coins.

A coin from Fort Pierce, FL, features the image of a pirate, while a coin from a canine task force is shaped like a paw.

Another coin is made in the shape of a police officer’s hat, and the Boston Police Department’s coin resembles a silver dollar.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars coin comes complete with a bottle opener.

A county in Michigan’s upper peninsula has a coin featuring lighthouses and water.

Zeek, the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department canine officer, has his own image on his coin.

Stoffel’s collection also includes a coin from the Democrat Party and another from the Republicans. The Indiana State Police coin commemorates the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Additional coins in Stoffel’s collection come from as far away as Texas and Georgia.

In addition to using the coins as promotional items, Stoffel and other officers sometimes use them as motivational tools, giving someone a coin and challenging them to overcome an obstacle in his or her life.

Stoffel says he often gives his coins out to kids.

“I will challenge the kids to make a lifestyle change,” he says. “If they find themselves slipping, I ask them to take hold of that coin and call me, and I’ll come to them. And I have had people call me.”

While the collection now lives in Stoffel’s desk drawer, he has plans for a more formal display.

“Eventually I’ll get a board made where we can display the coins, both sides,” he says. “I’ll leave them for future sheriffs can add to them.”