Superior Blog | 7/1/2021

How Are Challenge Coins Made

Challenges coins are an effective eye-catcher. They are meaningful and symbolic, and people use them for various reasons.

Challenge coins have an intriguing history. Previously, they were used to reward military men for their various accomplishments. As small tokens of appreciation for acts of accomplishments, they did a great deal and were adopted with much wider recognition.

These coins are very relevant, and anyone can get them. Employers can use them to reward their staff, and graduating students can receive them when they finish school.

This article takes you through the process of making enameled and double-sided coins. Read on!

The Process of Making Challenge Coins

Modern challenge coins are made from a combination of technology and craft. Artisans use computer-aided design to create shapes and test material tolerance. Here is a step-by-step process on how challenge coins are made.

Making a Custom Coin Mold

The process of creating coin mold is fully computerized for maximum precision. Artisans use computer-aided design (CAD), an engineering technology that prepares a digital blueprint of the coin. All data is fed seamlessly to create a digital design.

For enameled coins, artisans make only one mold. If the coin is double-sided, two molds are designed separately.

The digital design is then transferred into computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. This software runs hardware components that create the coin mold. This software runs a numerical-control mill that essentially cuts the coin design into a metal surface.

To test design accuracy, the molds are pressed against metal surfaces to see the impression they make. If there are imperfections, adjustments are made to the mold. In some cases, artisans have to redesign the mold if the initial grooving didn’t work out.

To make extra-hard molds, a very hot oven comes in handy. When red hot, they are taken out of the oven and dipped into cool oil. The reason behind this process is that the pressing machine exerts a lot of force. Therefore, they have to be hard enough to withstand this massive force.

Die Striking

Once the molds are ready, the next step is die-striking. This process involves using the molds to press the sculpture onto brass.

Artisans cut coins shapes from metal strips of either steel, zinc or brass. Brass is more commonly used when making challenge coins. Highly accurate, custom-shaped cutters help remove the coin's shapes from the metal strips.

The coins do not have to be round. You can choose any option you want and cut from the metal strips. It can be hexagonal or even star-shaped, depending on what you like.

Some advanced technologies help create 3D designs. When in 3D, it’s difficult to see the details printed on the coins.

Cutting a Coin Edge and Deburring

If you hadn’t included the edges into the mold, you could cut later. Place the coins on a working surface and cut an even pattern along the edge while spinning the table.

When the coin edge is ready, it’s smoothened to remove any ridges and sharp edges. Deburring can be done by hand or through rubbing against a spinning machine. During deburring, gloves help prevent the hands from cuts.

At this point, the coins look pretty good. However, there is a long process to go before they can come out as real challenge coins.

Color Filling

When the design is ready, the coin undergoes a color-filing and metal plating process. Soft enamel coins are first metal-plated before filing. For hard enamel coins, color-filing comes first.

To electroplate, the coins are immersed in clean water and then into a chemical to undergo plating. Mostly, coins are plated with silver, nickel, copper or gold. The thin metal plating forms a permanent, attractive layer.

Once the coins are dry, they are color-filled either by machines or by hand. Syringe squeezes are then filled with the soft enamel, which is transferred into the cut-out areas.

For hard-enamel coins, the enamel is first filled before electroplating. The depressed area should be filled with the enamel until it exceeds the surface. When the color filing process is over, the coin is heated in an oven to allow hardening of the enamel.

To give the coin a crispier look, some polishing has to be done. The coin then goes through the normal electroplating process as in soft-enameled coins.

A masking paint helps prevent the parts which have to remain neutral from mixing with the enamel. Right before electroplating, this special masking paint is taken off.

During electroplating, no one can immerse hands inside chemicals. Copper wires are tied across the coins before being soaked in the chemical. When an electrical current is run through the solution, the copper wires provide a grounding.

Laser Engraving

Ideally, the mold cannot print all details onto a challenge coin. If there’s any additional information, it can be engraved onto the coin using laser technology. Whether you want a name or description, the laser does it all.

The best thing about laser technology is that it can engrave small texts with high levels of precision. You can add your details both on the coin surface or edges.

Quality Control

Before the coins are sent out, a proper quality check is mandatory. Quality control experts have to check all details to ensure the coin is up to standards. Substandard coins are either destroyed or remade to fit the requirements.

After inspection, the coins are packed in transparent PVC boxes to avoid coming into contact with dirt.

Ideally, this is the complete process of making challenge coins. However, different artisans may go for other processes. All in all, the idea is virtually the same and leads to a similar product.

This process is entirely similar for single and double-edged coins. For double-edged coins, it’s only a repeat process.

Why You Need Custom Challenge Coins

Custom challenge coins make great rewards. Rather than the outdated rewarding methods, they are classy, timeless, and can be used on any occasion. Also, they make great impressions, thanks to their application in the military.

We offer a wide variety of challenge coins. Whatever design you want, we’ll always provide something suitable. <a href="" style={{textDecoration: 'none'}}>Get in touch with us to see how we can help!