The task of manufacturing challenge coins out of scratch is complicated. This can even be overwhelming to first timers in the coin industry. Popular coin markets created a system or program that would help their clients design the coin they want, in the most efficient manner possible. Generally, the military coins are made of copper or pewter. These coins are of high quality and are heavier. At times, they are categorized as among expensive coins. Coins of another category are made of nickel. Cheaper coins are made with zinc to incur lesser cost. The type of metal used greatly affects the quality of the result of the coin. Of course, other factors can also make an impact in producing an exceptional coin.
The Military Coin’s Appearance
Basically, the coins used as challenge coins or military coins have a diameter of around 1.5 to 2 inches. They have a thickness of about 0.1 inch. Subsequently, some styles and sizes may greatly be relative. There are various others that are not typical in shape. Some are shaped like shields, arrowheads, pentagons, and dogtags.
The Medallion’s Design
The medallion’s design includes the organization’s insignia that best represents its principles and members. Other aspects of the design can vary greatly. Various coins have enamel highlights, cut outs, and multi-dimensional designs.
The process starts with a basic design provided by the client. This design can come with a sketch or word descriptions of what the coin should convey. Then, the manufacturer takes the customer’s idea and produces a number of sample designs. The design idea can be produced by professional graphic artists. They essentially use a specialized software such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. When the final choice is made by the client, the next step is to add color and texture to the coin. The manufacturer has to make sure that the image on the coin is exactly what the client wants to see.
Molds and Dies
Once the design is finally obtained, the design is then etched into a plasticine, which is similar to modeling clay. This model is three to twelve times the size of actual military coins. This complex process is done over a long period of time – usually three to four weeks. The sculptor-engravers have to take note of the depth that fits the coin that will be produced.
At that point, the plaster is then poured onto the model to produce a negative or reverse master mold. The sculptor replicates this process a number of times until the plaster mold is perfect.
The durable rubber mold is created by pouring a type of epoxy into the plaster mold. A transfer engraver mounts this epoxy mold. The transfer engraver is a machine that handles the relocation of the design from the mold to a die of the same size as the actual challenge coin. A thick piece of metal, called “die”, is the one that is engraved with a design. It is commonly used to strike or stamp one side of the coins.
The Striking Process
A thin piece of blank metal struck by two dies, called a “planchet”, impress the designs to create a challenge coin. The process of hitting a planchet simultaneously by a hammer die or anvil die, stamping or impressing the design into both sides of the challenge coin, is called “striking”.
The Plating Process
As mentioned above, military coins are usually made from bronze and then plated with whatever color metal is desired, such as gold or silver. The process of coating the bronze coin in a colored metal is called “plating”, and this process may differ depending on the manufacturer or the client.
Lastly, enamel filling is the process of filling the recessed metal areas with colored enamel. Usually, the process is done manually. This last procedure usually takes several days, especially if making a large number of challenge coins.