In 2009, NBC News featured a story about something called a “challenge coin.” These coins have a special meaning even though they don’t have any real money value. People like to take these coins to bars where military folks hang out. It’s a way to show off your collection or sometimes you might have to buy drinks for your friends.
Some of these coins have special designs that show a person’s achievements in the army, while others represent different wars or places.
At the end of the 2009 TV show, the news anchor Brian Williams shared his own collection of these military challenge coins. He had gathered them over the years from his military friends, and they meant a lot to him.
The challenge coin is used to recognize a special achievement, a new membership, or a promotion in the U. S. military. All branches of the army are currently exchanging challenge coins. The commander’s coins were distributed by officers and senior soldiers.
Someone, such as Bill Clinton, has seen the president collect challenge coins. Military personnel will pass on some of their challenge coins because the government and military are linked.
Design your challenge coin
Designing a challenge coin is fun, but there are a lot of things to consider before getting started. Fortunately, we have years of experience customizing coins, and we are happy to help you every step of the way.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about coin design challenges. Whether you’re new or just looking for a refresher, these steps will help you take a simple idea and turn it into an unforgettable challenge coin design.
Step One: Coming Up With an Idea
Every challenge coin starts out as nothing more than an idea. We provide free artwork and revisions, but we can’t get started on your coins until we know a little something about your vision.
So, the first step in challenge coin design is coming up with an idea. Think about what kind of artwork you want on the front and back of your coins. Who are the coins for, and what kind of events will they be a part of? What colors do you imagine?
These questions only scratch the surface of what your coins will mean and how they will look, but they’re great things to think about when you’re starting out. Some of the best challenge coin designs focus on logos, mascots, and slogans, but we can create just about anything you can dream up.
Use resources like Google images, Pinterest, Shutterstock, or even our challenge coin gallery to find some inspiration. Once you have some ideas and images ready, share them with us, and write down a description of how you see the finished coins.
Making a quick sketch is the best way to help us see what kind of artwork you have in mind. You don’t have to be a professional artist. We just need to be able to see how you envision the general layout of the text and artwork in the coin design.
We have a free challenge coin design template that you can print out. It gives you a place to lay out the details of your coin and checkboxes indicating what kind of custom options you want to include in the design (but more on that in a minute). The coin design template is not required, but it’s a great tool that helps our art team visualize what the coins will look like when everything is finished.
Step Two: Picking Challenge Coin Design Options
While artwork consists of things like logos, text, and images, the design of your coins is made up of things like size, shape, metal plating, edging, and several other elements of coin construction. The custom design options we offer provide countless combinations of textures and colors that can change the way your coins look and feel.
There are a lot of different custom coin design options to cover, but the best place to start is size and shape.
Challenge Coin Size and Shape
The average size of challenge coins is 1.75” (roughly the diameter of a golf ball), but 2” coins are becoming more popular every day. A lot of people find that the extra surface area provided by a 2” coin gives their artwork room to breathe, even when text wraps around the edge of the coin.
Challenge coins can be as small as 1.5”. However, it’s difficult to create legible artwork and text on coins smaller than 1.5”. If you’re looking for a custom golf ball marker or just an extra small challenge coin, it’s important to keep the artwork as simple as possible to capture the clearest artwork and design.
If you want something larger than average, oversized challenge coins start at 2.5” and go up to just about any size you want. The largest coin we’ve created was 9” and weighed over three pounds!
When you have a size in mind for your coins, it’s time to decide on the shape of your coins. Not all coins are round. Some are oval, square, or triangular, and others have dynamic shapes with intricate grooves and cutouts that form completely custom images.
If you’re looking for a functional bottle opener coin or a multi-tool coin, odds are that your design will need a custom shape. This isn’t always the case. Some bottle opener coins are round with a bottle opener hook cut out in the center of the design. Others have bottle opener hooks incorporated in unique and interesting ways. Multi-tool coins with screwdrivers, bottle openers, and wrenches will always have a custom shape of some kind.
Whether you need a functional challenge coin design or you’re just looking to create a design that stands out from the crowd, choosing a custom shape is sure to go a long way. You can choose from any number of standard shapes or you can ask for a completely unique shape. It all comes down to what you think will look best.
Once you’ve decided on the proper size and shape of your coins, it’s time to think about how they will feel.
Weight and Texture: Getting the Feel Just Right
Challenge coin design isn’t just about how a coin looks. It’s also about how a coin feels.
Customizing the weight of your coins and the background texture is one of the best ways to make a design that sticks out in a person’s memory. There are a few different ways to change the weight and texture, and the first is thickness.
Most challenge coins are 3mm thick. Occasionally, you’ll see challenge coins that are 3.5mm thick, but a great majority of coins are designed to be 3mm thick.
This gives them a decent weight and solid feel, but upgrading from a 3mm coin to a 4mm coin will increase the weight of your design by 33%. Heavier coins feel more valuable and durable. If you want to make a big impression with your challenge coins, you don’t need to get a huge 3” coin, you just have to increase the thickness of the design.
Creating a unique background texture is another great way to make coins feel unique. We’ve created coins with brickwork patterns, stippling patterns, and even dragon scales.
One of the best ways to change the texture of your coins is by including 3D artwork. While 2D coins have one raised and one recessed level, 3D coins have innumerable raised and recessed levels. The sculpted artwork of 3D coins gives artwork incredible depth and detail and changes the way the surface of the coin feels.
3D challenge coin artwork opens the door for all kinds of different shapes and textures, and the level of detail is unrivaled. If you prefer the look of a 2D coin, there are still plenty of ways to create a beautiful coin design as well. It’s all a matter of what kind of challenge coin design you’re looking for.
Once you’ve decided on the thickness of your design, the background texture of the artwork, and whether you prefer the 2D or 3D design, there are only a few more things left in the coin design process.
Enamel Colors, Metal Plating, and Custom Edging
These last few aspects of challenge coin design will wrap everything up. It’s important to think of whether you want color on one side, both sides or no color at all. And it’s also important to consider what type of color you want to use in your design. We have soft enamel, hard enamel, translucent enamel, matte enamel, glitter enamel, and glow enamel. Feel free to mix and match as many different types of enamel as you like in the same design!
Enamel colors and metal plating go hand in hand. For example, high-polish metals like gold and silver benefit from darker enamel colors that reduce the glare coming off the bright metal. Black metal coins, on the other hand, look best with bright enamel colors like white and yellow that help the artwork stand out.
High-polish gold and silver plating are the most popular plating options that we offer, but there’s so much more available. Antique nickel and antique copper are two of our favorite plating options because they are so much rarer than all the other plating styles. Antique metal plating has a rich color that helps the finest details in a design make a big impression.
Something else to keep in mind is that we can combine multiple types of plating on the same coin. Gold and silver are always fun to combine in the same design, but there’s a whole world of possible combinations. Some of the most striking designs we’ve seen combine black metal and silver or antique gold and antique copper.
The last thing to think about is edging. Sometimes, a standard flat edge does the trick just fine, but if you’re looking for a way to frame your artwork with something a little more elaborate, we have plenty of options for you to choose from.
Cross-cut and oblique line challenge coins have a unique texture that changes the way people interact with your coins. Our production team uses a machine to cut them by hand, giving them an almost sharp feel. Most people instinctively want to handle them with care, but there is no need to worry. They’re perfectly safe.
And that’s that!
This might seem like a lot to take in all at once, but it’s all pretty straightforward. It all stems from your original inspirations and ideas, and the rest usually falls into place on its own. If you’re not sure what options you like best or you feel overwhelmed with all the different options, just let us know. Our sales team is happy to offer suggestions and provide more examples for you to check out.
As long as you have an idea, you’re ready for the last part of designing a challenge coin. Submitting a request for artwork and pricing.
Step 3: Requesting Artwork and Revisions
The last step in challenge coin design is requesting artwork and revisions. Here at Signature Coins, we offer free artwork and unlimited free revisions. Some other challenge coin makers say that they offer free artwork, but then charge you for every revision that needs to be made for the design. Always make sure to ask your challenge coin maker about their policies on artwork and revisions before getting started.
We’ve been making custom challenge coins for a long time, and we know that getting the design just right on the first try is pretty rare. That’s why we’ve always offered free revisions. Whether you request small changes across multiple proofs or ask for 100 changes all at once, we’re happy to help.
But first, you need to fill out an order request form on our website. The quote form has places for you to choose options like size, edging, metal plating, and other options, and there is also a place to upload any artwork or resources you have prepared. We accept Google images, hand-drawn sketches, bullet list descriptions, and just about everything else you might have that will help us understand your vision for the coins.
Using the challenge coin design template is a great way to keep all of your ideas organized, but it’s not required.
When you receive your first proof of artwork, make sure to double-check things like colors, edging, and spelling. If you think certain aspects of the artwork could be larger or are wondering if a certain font will look better than the current text on the design, be sure to let us know. We’ll prepare a second proof so you can compare the differences.
Once the artwork is perfect, the challenge coin design process is finished. All you need to do is order your coins!
Know All of Your Options and Create a Challenge Coin Today!
There is a lot of information in this guide, but there is no need to feel overwhelmed. Our job is to help you bring your vision to life, and we can work with any ideas that you might have.
Having an idea of the artwork you need, as well as some of the custom options like size, plating, and edging you like best, will make the process of designing a challenge coin move much faster.
If you have an idea, you have everything you need to get started. If you have any questions or if you are ready to create a challenge coin of your own, reach out to us! We’re here to help!