Rod McLeod, a collector and producer of military coins, medallions and other ceremonial regalia, recently donated more than 100 pieces from his collection to the Pictou County Military Heritage Museum in Westville, N.S.
McLeod, who’s the owner of AFPP-International, helped the museum amass 120 different challenge coins, which are now housed among the museum’s extensive collection of more than 12,000 artifacts.
“It is the largest single collection of challenge coins in any Canadian museum,” said McLeod, who served with the 20th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery (Militia) in Edmonton from 1961-71. “The majority are from the war in Afghanistan. Over the past couple years, we have continued to add to this collection.”
Other museum highlights include regimental buttons, hat badges, uniforms, ship hat tallies and weapons, including a C1 Howitzer. The museum also has a research and viewing room, which displays more than 1,000 military profiles, photographs and documents.
TRULY UNIQUE MUSEUM
“As one of the largest coin designers and manufacturers in Canada, we deal with a number of military museums across the country,” said McLeod.
“Pictou County Military Museum is truly one of the most unique in Canada. Founder Vince Joyce can personally take credit for the success of this museum; his tenacity as a collector is remarkable. For a relatively ‘out-of-the-way’ museum, Mr. Joyce was able to convince two very prominent Chiefs of Defence Staff and the Governor General of Canada to donate their uniforms to his care and collection.”
McLeod has been accumulating a compete set of military coin samples since 1983 and plans to donate another collection to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa in the future.
Some of the Pictou County Military Heritage Museum’s coins are commemorative pieces while others are known as “challenge coins.”
“Challenge coins, an American tradition, are a relatively new concept to the Canadian military,” said McLeod. “Popularity gained traction during the war in Afghanistan when Canadian soldiers worked closely with the U.S. It has many uses; as tokens of appreciation, regimental or unit association, and are subject to several social traditions.”
The reason they’re referred to as “challenge coins,” McLeod said, relates to their use by members of the same unit.
“If I put my coin on the bar – and you do not have yours with you – then you pay for the round. On the other hand, if you do produce your coin, then I buy.”
OTHER MILITARY COINS
Today, many organizations – military, public service, fire and police among them – issue medallions as a sign of membership.
McLeod said each soldier of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada is issued a coin upon graduation from basic training. The coin is engraved with the name and regimental number of a fallen Seaforth soldier, and it’s the recent graduate’s personal responsibility to find the late soldier’s remaining family and invite them to the regimental Remembrance Day ceremony.
“On that day, he is also required to carry that coin in his left hand,” said McLeod. “All day on Nov. 11.”
He said most commanders also have a supply of their own “Commander’s coin” or “Command Team coin,” which are given to individuals for exemplary service.
“These are highly prized as a token of appreciation or esteem, without the formality of a medal, said McLeod.
AFPP-International was the “supplier of choice for many of the commanders serving in Afghanistan,” McLeod said.
“We designed and produce about 96 coins over a nine-year period. Since the end of the war, we have designed and produced well over 1,000 more coins.”
The first coin he produced was for Brigadier General Bob Meeting, commander of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group headquartered in Calgary in the mid-1980s.
“To date, we have produced coins for the military, regional and municipal police forces, the RCMP, CSIS and government departments, including coins for the last five consecutive Chiefs of the Defence Staff,” said McLeod, who was also commissioned to produce a personal medallion for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017.
McLeod said while most coin manufacturers use zinc alloy castings, AFPP-International specializes in die-struck brass finished in 24-karat gold.
“It renders exquisite detail and a superior finished product. These coins are normally either 38 mm or 45 mm diameter depending on their purpose as a presentation coin or a pocket coin.”
For more information, visit afpp-international.com.