Custom challenge coins are granted to special individuals by organizations. These small tokens are significant. Thus, making them requires great care and thought. Custom coins are a unique work of art.
The make and appearance of the earliest custom coin is relatively unknown since the origin of its use is very murky. However, there are accounts of the Roman Empire giving coins to their soldiers as a reward. These coins may likely be made of gold, bronze, or other precious metal valuable at the time.
The most solid description of an early custom coin is with the First World War story. The downed American pilot’s medallion was a gift to him and his squad mates by their wealthy lieutenant. It was made of solid bronze and has been stamped with his squadron’s insignia.
These early medallions were most likely designed simply with little uniformity in size, coloring, and engraving. Lack of appropriate tools and time constraints might have prevented the coin makers from elevating their work.
In the modern days, custom coin makers had the power of technology at their disposal. Designing and creating coins is a serious business. A good number of artists are dedicated in producing high quality and intricate custom coins. They had turned the entire process into an art.
Challenge coins are usually small. They are 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter and have a thickness of 1/10 inch. These sizes may differ depending on the vision of the designer and the commissioner of the custom coin.
The shape of challenge coins is varied. They can be round, square, rectangle, or other basic geometric shapes. Some had them fashioned to look like shields or arrow heads. There are custom coins that were even cut into intricate shapes to resemble various continents.
The coin is made first by cutting a base. The base is made of metal. Only three metals can be used for a base: copper, nickel, or pewter. The base is molded according to the desired shape of the custom coin.
The next process is to engrave the design into the metal base. Designs may vary. They can be simple or intricate. It is the choice of the custom coin commissioner and the designer on what the end product would look like. Traditionally, it’s the organization’s insignia and motto that is engraved into the coin.
The engraving has two styles. The first is to deboss the words and images into the metal. The second style to emboss the coin’s design.
After both sides of the custom coin are engraved, it would be polished. Then it would be given a finishing touch with a coat of the selected patina.
There is a wide array of choices for a coin’s finishing coat. It can be a patina of simple pewter or an extravagant 24k gold. Brass, copper, nickel, and silver can used as custom coin finishes too. Enamels with epoxy coating can also add more color into the coin. The epoxy would also provide protection from scratches and increase the durability of a custom coin.
There are no holes or hooks added to the design of a coin. It does not matter if it is for the convenience of safekeeping the coin. They are prohibited. Otherwise, they would not be considered custom challenge coins at all.
The making of custom coins can be cheap or expensive. It always depends on the materials requested to be used. The design for the coin is also taken into account. The more intricate and detailed a design is, the more expensive it would be because of the work and time it would need. The choice of patina finish can also affect the price of a challenge coin.
There is a lot of care and thought dedicated into the making of custom coins. It is a product of love and hard labor that is worthy of carrying its honorable purpose.