Companies and organizations around the world like to give challenge coins to their members in the way of commemorating special events. Each coin is a symbol of achievement, belonging, and camaraderie within a group. Because challenge coins mean so much to so many people, people often ask how they're made. The process for making the coin is relatively simple to understand if you know the steps. Here is how you make a challenge coin.
The Design Process
Every challenge coin begins with the design process. This process has become much more automated with the development of high-powered computers and CNC machines. It begins by creating a design in a computer-assisted design (CAD) System. This allows a CNC machine to accurately cut the design into a piece of metal that is used later in the process.
The design of a challenge coin is only limited to the capabilities of the manufacturer. There are many factors that can be changed, including the coin’s size, material, finish, color, and shape. On top of that, special design features can be added as long as the computer can understand what you were trying to do.
Once the design has been created in the CAD system, it is transferred to the CNC machine and broken down into cutting instructions. This CNC machine is capable of cutting solid metal into a distinct shape. It takes a negative image of your design and cuts it into a large chunk of metal called a die or mold. This essentially takes your design and cuts out the spaces around the parts of your design. That way, it can be used to press an exact copy of your design into another piece of metal.
Each coin requires two molds, one for the front and one for the back. These molds are usually made out of a very hard metal like steel, which can withstand large amounts of pressure without bending or ruining your design. No matter how many coins that you order, only one mold set is needed to finish a production line.
With the die or mold set completed, the next step is to start making the coins. Coin blanks are pressed with the mold set so that your design is imprinted on both sides. This is called die striking, and it requires a very large machine to apply enough pressure to reshape the coins. A skilled operator can complete this part relatively quickly, depending on how many coins you order.
Throughout this process, the coins are checked to make sure that the designs are imprinted properly. Any coin that has an imperfection in it is either fixed or removed from production and replaced with a new copy.
The edge of the coin can have a unique design of its own. There are many options that you can choose from, and how they are made depends on which option you choose. Some of these options are:
- Rope (die stuck)
- Chain (die stuck)
- Spur (die stuck)
- Flat (die stuck)
- Custom edges (die stuck)
- Beveled (Machine cut)
- Scalloped (Machine cut)
- Oblique (Machine cut)
- Cross Cut (Machine cut)
- Reeded (Machine cut)
The edge design is largely based on personal preference. Each option has its own characteristics that can compliment the rest of the coin. It is something to think about upgrading when you think of ways to enhance your coin’s design.
Stamped and cut metal can have a lot of sharp edges and burrs. These burrs need to be removed before continuing with the process. There are several ways to do this, including doing it by hand. However, there are several machines that can automate this process.
Once the polishing process is finished, each coin is checked for imperfections. At this point, it may be possible to correct any imperfections that are found. However, quality checkers are very focused on making sure that every coin that is finished is top quality. It is not uncommon for them to remove coins with very small defects from production.
Plating is the process of coating a coin with a different material. Coins that are made with precious metals, including gold or silver are not entirely made from those materials. This would make each coin very expensive. Instead, they are made of more common materials, such as copper, zinc, and iron. Then, a layer of gold or silver is attached to the surface of the coin. This process is done using a series of chemicals to clean the coin and to help transfer the plating material to its surface.
Coloring is the process of adding colors to your coins. This can be done by machines or by hand using special tools. Enamel paint is used to fill in spaces in your design that were left open. The level of detail created by the colors in your design depends on how that color is applied.
You want a design with a higher color and detail, there are several ways to do this. In some cases, pictures can be printed directly on coins. This gives you the highest picture quality of all the options.
Finishing often happens in more than one part of the process. Before or during the polishing process, a finishing process is used. There are several ways to do this, including:
- Sandblasting (Happens before the polishing process)
- Flat/matte finishing (Happens before the polishing process)
- Brushing (Happens before the polishing process)
- Polished (Happens during the polishing process)
This gives different parts of the coin different finishes since they are finished at different times. For example, a coin can have a flat finish applied to flat areas before polishing, which gives them a matte appearance. Later, the raised edges can be polished so that they shine. The combination of these finishes creates contrast between the edges and the other surfaces, leading to a more detailed design.
The finish can also be changed during the plating process by choosing a different material. Gold and silver are common options, but they are also not the only options available. This creates more of a color contrast while still allowing for a metallic finish.
Get Your Challenge Coin
You can have your own challenge coin made by following these steps. The hardest part for you may be the design process, we can help you come up with a design that you can be proud of.
At Custom Challenge Coins, we have extensive experience designing and manufacturing challenge coins for organizations including all branches of the military and first responders. Check out our pricing guide to learn more about our available customization options and prices and check out our specials page for monthly promotions!.