They do make a nice gift.
As for the backstory, ha. Which version? It is all marketing. My father was a three war vet, never heard of the coins. My husband and myself never heard of the coins when we were active duty. They began appearing commonly around 2000 or so. So while there may have been challenge coins around in some military communities long ago, they are not an old Navy-wide tradition, They are a newer phenomena, and quite nice. I got a couple to go with my husband's retirement shadowbox.
Ahh. I see. Would it be something that I could give my son, or should I leave it to him to ask if he wants one or have a military person (Navy cousin) give him? And thank you for your answer! And for your family's service.
One for PIR is fine, and maybe one for A school graduation. Other than that, ask him, because buying them, except as keepsakes from a command or ship, is not what they are about. Also, they won't always have room to display them once they're out of training.
They weren't common for us enlisted pukes.
Yeah, nobody was talking about coins when my Sailor went thru RTC in 2004. She didn't get her 1st coin until 2007:
Some time after that I gave her a rating coin with her name and rate engraved on the back. It wasn't until her second enlistment, when her job involved travel to all the big US bases and regular visits to the Pentagon, that her coin collection really took off. It was the golden age of Navy coins.The Navy was late getting into the game. Then the ax fell and money for coins and other tokens of appreciation was pulled out of the Navy budget. Its pay as you go now. Too bad.