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A Guide to Custom Challenge Coins: Enamel Coins, Die-Struck Coins, & More

August 19, 2021

A Guide to Custom Challenge Coins: Enamel Coins, Die-Struck Coins, & More

Thinking of creating custom challenge coins? Great Idea! Though they’re a less conventional type of custom product, they’re a great item to sell in your custom store or distribute throughout your organization. They’re small, memorable, and incredibly customizable, making them perfect for commemorating events, recognizing achievement, or even spreading the word about your business.

However, deciding to sell or create challenge coins is just the beginning. You’ve still got to finalize the design you’ll have engraved on them, find a great manufacturer to bring your vision to life, and choose the right type of challenge coin for your needs.

Here at The/Studio, we make it easy to create any of the most popular types of coins, like challenge coins, military coins, and commemorative coins. But even beyond those basic types, you still have the freedom to customize so many aspects of your coin, from color to materials used to the shape and size. No need to try and make your own ideas fit a mold – rather, you can create your own challenge coin from scratch for a 100% original design and result.

Learn more about challenge coins and all of the different shapes, sizes, and types of custom coins you could create, along with how to create a great one.

custom coins

What is a challenge coin?

A challenge coin is a unique, custom-designed coin that represents an organization, occasion, or group. They are typically small and circular and may bear an organization’s logo or emblem. It may look similar in size, shape, or even materials to a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter. However, rather than being used as currency, challenge coins are strictly commemorative, often carrying no monetary value but plenty of sentimental value. They may be kept in a collector’s box, carried in a pocket, or even displayed proudly on a wall.

What are challenge coins used for?

Traditional challenge coins are presented to recognize an individual’s special achievement or simply to represent membership and unity in an organization, company, or community. Throughout history, receiving a challenge coin has been considered a great honor. High-quality challenge coins may even be treasured and passed on as an heirloom.

Historically, challenge coins were used in the military to demonstrate proof of membership and affiliation with a specific unit. They’re a big part of military culture, with their use dating back to the Roman Empire. During World War I, it became a tradition for American military members to carry their medallion or coin at all times. 

This is still the case for many military members today, as can be observed during the popular “coin check” tradition during formal or informal gatherings. In a bygone era, military service members had to present enemy bullets or their unit challenge coin to gain access to a bar. This tradition lives on as follows: One person will yell out “coin check,” then slaps their coin onto the bar and all active or veteran military members do the same. The last person to present their coin (or any individual without their coin on hand) has to buy the next round of drinks for the entire group!

Today, challenge coins are still used in the military as well as in first-responder services. But many communities and organizations have put their own spin on this tradition as well, creating custom challenge coins as gifts to give to new members when they join, awards to recognize stellar achievement, or even souvenirs to commemorate special occasions.

Challenge coins still make an excellent morale-boosting memento to represent membership in a community and recognize exceptional leadership, service, or commitment. 

Types of Custom Coins

The most popular types of coins people create here at The/Studio are challenge coins, military coins, and commemorative coins. While each is incredibly customizable, they differ mainly in their intended use. Let’s go over these three common types of custom coins and what makes them unique.

Challenge Coins

Challenge coins are popular among military, first-responders, and other organizations as a mark of comradeship or recognition. Challenge coins may feature an organization’s name, founding date, insignia, values, and more. While challenge coins have roots in military history, any organization can respectfully create and bestow its own.

Military Coins

Military coins may be presented to service members who have just achieved a particular rank or have shown demonstrated excellence, or to all service members in a certain unit. They are deeply rooted in tradition. They are commonly used in the army, navy, marines, air force, and coast guard. They typically feature a mix of decorative insignia and writing, often using stamped metal or a combination of red, white, and blue enamel.

Commemorative Coins

Rather than highlighting an individual’s affiliation with a certain organization, commemorative coins typically celebrate an event or honor a person’s lifetime accomplishments. Commemorative coins typically include an organization’s emblem along with dates, titles, or achievements. Commemorative coins may also be given to honor military service or other significant achievements. 

Beyond challenge coins, military coins, and commemorative coins, you could also create custom coins for family reunions, arcades, club membership, and so much more. It’s totally up to you!

die-struck coins manufacturer

Challenge Coin Customization Options

No matter what you’re planning on using your custom coins for, you still have plenty of customization options to choose from to make your designs 100% your own. When you partner with The/Studio to create your coins, you’ll enjoy infinite possibilities for customization – from 20 coin materials to choose from to deluxe packaging options to multiple enamel color choices and so much more. You’ll simply indicate your preferences using our handy product creation tool, then we’ll manufacture your product for you according to your specifications.

Whether you’re making a challenge coin, a military coin, a commemorative coin, or a different type of coin entirely, you’ll have the freedom to select the following options:

Size

First, you’ll select the size of your custom coin. Indicate the length and width of your custom coin, anywhere from 1.5-3 inches long and wide. (Challenge coins are traditionally a circle, but you can create an oval or a different shape if you’d prefer!)

Style

Next up, select whether you’re looking for a custom coin with no enamel color, a one-sided coin with enamel color, or a double-sided coin with color. (Most customers go with a double-sided coin with color.)

Material Color/Finish

Select from 20+ color/finish options, including:

  • Shiny gold
  • Shiny silver
  • Shiny nickel
  • Shiny gunmetal 
  • Shiny brass
  • Shiny copper
  • Shiny rose gold
  • Antique gold
  • Antique silver
  • Antique nickel
  • Antique brass
  • Antique copper
  • Satin gold
  • Satin silver
  • Satin nickel
  • Satin brass
  • Satin copper
  • Black paint
  • Brush brass

Can’t decide on just one metal color? You’ll also have the option to select two metal colors of the same finish at a low additional cost.

Colors

Beyond the metal finish, you’ll also have the option to add color to your design if you prefer. Choose to add anywhere from 1 to 21+ colors using enamel, or opt for a printed design for unlimited colors at no extra cost.

Enamel

If you choose to add color to your custom coin with enamel, you’ve still got one more decision to make: soft enamel or hard enamel? Soft enamel adds colored enamel that dries in valleys between metal lines for a classic textured surface, while hard enamel dries on-level with metal edges and a smooth surface.

Looking for something a little different? Choose to mix glow-in-the-dark material into enamel of any color for a glowing effect, or add on translucent enamel that adds a sheen to the metal underneath.

3D Mold

Looking for a challenge coin that really pops? Opt for a 3D mold effect for more of a three-dimensional sculpted look rather than a flat coin. 

Die-Struck

Classic challenge coins often don’t involve any color at all – they simply rely on a raised die-struck surface for any embellishments. Choose the die-struck option if your coin won’t involve any color, just metal. 

Engraved Sequential Numbers

Creating a limited run of challenge coins? Add small engraved sequential numbers onto each coin to emphasize exclusivity.

Epoxy Coating

Add epoxy coating to the surface of your design to smooth and protect it. Choose between thin, clear epoxy or a thick epoxy dome on one or both sides of the coin.

Offset Printing

Enamel isn’t the only way you can add color to your challenge coin. You can also opt for offset printing for a look that’s as close to your original design as possible. In this case, you’ll have to choose between a thin epoxy coating or a thick epoxy dome to seal your design.

Rhinestones

How about a little bling? Add standard rhinestones to your coin for some extra razzle-dazzle.

Border & edge

Choose from 10 unique border designs, including:

  • Standard flat border
  • Rope-cut border
  • Reeded edge
  • Text on edge
  • Spur cut border
  • Oblique cut border
  • Wave-cut border
  • Cross-cut border
  • Petal-cut border
  • Custom border

Upgrades

Add fun upgrades to your custom coin, including:

  • Bottle opener functionality
  • Spinning centerpiece
  • Aluminum metal core (to reduce the coin’s weight)

create custom challenge coins

5 Steps to Creating Custom Challenge Coins:

Hopefully, you’ve already started thinking about how your custom challenge coin will look… but the next step is to figure out how to bring that idea to life! The/Studio makes it easy to create 100% custom challenge coins online. (No DIY or complex metalworking required!) Here’s how to create custom challenge coins for your business or organization using The/Studio’s DIY online product creation tool:

1. Select a product

The/Studio allows you to create all sorts of custom products, from patches to pins to socks and beyond. Head to create.thestudio.com and select the custom coin option.

2. Customize your coin

Now, it’s time to start bringing your personalized challenge coin to life. Start making those tough customization decisions, including the size, color, style, finish, type, and border design of your coin. 

You’ll also have the option to add extra features, such as bottle-opening function, a spinning centerpiece, epoxy coating, translucent enamel, glow-in-the-dark enamel, engraved sequential numbers, rhinestones, and more. Plus, beyond the coin itself, The/Studio also offers various optional kitting options for simple displaying, presenting, and gifting.

3. Submit your design

Now that you’ve ironed out all of the important specifications, it’s time to finalize your challenge coin’s design. If you’ve already designed your ideal coin, simply upload a PDF of whatever you’ve worked up. You could also upload your company’s logo or organization’s insignia along with all of the text you’d like included. 

Or if you’re really not sure about the design you’re going for, that’s okay! Simply request free design services from our in-house design team, provide detailed notes, and we’ll help you create a beautiful custom challenge coin.

4. Approve a sample

Next up, just sit tight! Our team will get to work right away on creating a prototype for your approval. You’ll either get a physical prototype of your challenge coin in the mail or receive a detailed set of photographs to review. If all looks as good as you initially pictured, great! We’ll move forward with production and be sure all of your coins meet that same quality standard. If you see anything you’d like changed, that’s okay, too! Simply respond with detailed feedback and our team will make as many changes you’d like free of charge.

5. Receive your coins

The wait is almost over! Once production is complete, you’ll enjoy free U.S. shipping and tracking information and receive your coins in the mail. Then, it’s up to you to use them however you’d like – whether you hand them out to recognize stellar accomplishments or sell them to commemorate important events.

(Remember – all custom products you order from The/Studio come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you know you’ll love them!)

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