Small Business Brief


8 Best Practices for Custom Coin Design

Gifts mean something, especially when they are meant to mark a special time or accomplishment. 

Most people’s expectations are remarkably low for common achievements, such as graduations, that most gifts are forgettable. 

But what if someone does something that really matters? Or joins some kind of group that few people could join? 

Challenge coins are a great way to acknowledge and commemorate both. 

But coin design can be tricky. It’s not like going to an instant print t-shirt website. This literally casts the design and the ideas behind it in metal. 

So what do you need to know about creating a challenge coin the right way? Read on!

1. Show Me, Don’t Tell Me

Make sure you know what you want it to say and what image you want to have immortalized in cast metal.

This takes serious introspection. Don’t discount, procrastinate or reduce the planning and development phase of creating these challenge coins.

These coins are meant to commemorate accomplishment and mark acceptance as part of a larger fraternal order. That demands thoughtful consideration.

Focus on an image that is iconic to your organization or a shared experience. Let that image anchor the coin. Let the image carry the message. These could include insignias, brand marks or other designs that tell who the coin is for without using words.

Reduce text to a minimum allow for insignia to have the space they need. Those few works should include the basics such as the name of the group and any specific time or the division of the organization.

2. Don’t Cheap-Out on the Image for Your Coin Design

Because images on these coins are so important, it is well worth paying a designer to do a custom image for your challenge coin. 

The images on these coins drive the vision and the appeal of the coin. And people will make assumptions about the coin, what it represents and the people that give it. Using some generic or recycled image will make the value and therefore the intent behind the coin seem cheap. 

Effective designers will be able to meet the challenges of creating the coin with the vision of the coin. Through that, they will be able to come up with a more unique coin. 

3. Keep It Simple

Metal is a rough material. It can be molded and shaped into fine forms. But that’s not what the challenge coin is: it’s a two-sided disc that can be engraved, embossed and debossed.

And often the finer the detail, the more work and the higher the cost of these coins will be, limiting how far your budget will go. 

Colors are a great way to enhance the image and message of the coin. These custom coins show how a little color can make the image on the coins pop. 

These coins that make the most of intentional, simple designs use no more than three colors. Do note: color makes a coin pop, but they will increase costs. 

4. Size (And Weight) Matter

Time and time again, people attribute the weight of an item to its apparent value. Make sure that whatever the material you use has some heft to it. 

The weight of the coin will depend on the materials used to make it. There are a few materials that go into the base material for these coins. These base materials include zinc alloy, bronze, brass, and copper to name a few. 

Often these coins are about 1.5 inches across but it’s not uncommon to see 2 inches or a bit larger. 

5. It’s Not How You Start…

… It’s how you finish. Base materials can be covered or finished with different materials and colors. Some common finishes include shiny or antique silver, gold or brass; gunmetal, copper, and chrome; and brushed metal finishes. 

Another finish that’s important to coins is the patina, or a brown film used to prevent the metal from oxidizing. It’s not a given that your coin will have this sort of topcoat. Having it ensures that the coins last significantly longer in a more mint condition. Communicate that with your designer and coin maker. 

6. Get Into Shape(s)

Simply because a challenge coin is called a doesn’t mean that it has to be round. These challenge coins are meant to be a commemorative memento, not currency. 

You can shake up expectations by skipping the circle and taking on non-traditional shapes such as squares, shiels, diamonds or other symmetrical designs. The key to any non-traditional design is some element of symmetry. 

Another key consideration is the intention behind the design. Not every organization is well-represented by snazzy shapes. These include organizations where tradition, heritage, and professionalism is key to the culture. 

7. On the Edges

For certain coins, it will be thick enough to have space for additional words or designs on the outfacing rim of the coin. This is a good place to fit subtle words, phrases or designs. Just what to put in that space is a tricky decision and ough to be discussed in detail with a designer. There isn’t much space on the rim and the wrong phrase or design simply won’t fit or will conflict with other points of the coin design. 

8. How Will It Be Delivered and Displayed

These coins are to do to those who the giver wants to honor and recognize. going the next mile for a challenge coin means thinking about and planning for how that coin will be delivered. For high-end, high-importance recipients, providing commemorative displays or ritzy-looking delivery boxes are a major plus. 

If the coin is to be hand-delivered, explaining or instructing how it is to be carried, displayed or stored will help ensure the recipient care for it appropriately. 

Learn Other Ways to Recognize Talent

The right gift at the right time can have a tremendous impact on people. And getting a challenge coin design right can help. But there many other ways to help keep people engaged. Search our site for the latest in small business management. Click the link below for the next chapter in your business education.