How Challenge Coins Are Made

October 16, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Making custom coins begins with the design process and choosing a size.
  • Challenge coins have custom edges like spur-cut, ridged, diamond-cut, and oblique line.
  • Common plating options include gold, silver, bronze, nickel, and antique.
  • Ordering custom challenge coins is easy with PinProsPlus.

Challenge coins have a long history and are coveted by collectors worldwide. However, many people do not know how the coins are made.

Making challenge coins involves producing a design which is then transferred onto a metal die to cast the coin. The design is then imprinted onto the metal die through stamping, creating a raised image and text. The final step includes plating, adding color, and polishing the coins.

The production process is different for each challenge coin. For example, some coins require additional steps like coloring and plating, while others are more traditional and look like currency. Below we look at how challenge coins are made, including design, mold creation, striking, plating, and more.

Table of Contents

Overview of How Challenge Coins are Made

While the process has changed slightly since the coins were first given out to military units during the first world war, the basic steps are still used today.

Design and Size of the Coin

The first step in creating a custom challenge coin is to decide on the design and size. If you have a specially designed coin custom idea in mind, send it to one of our designers. At PinsProsPlus, we will work with you to make the perfect custom challenge coin design free of charge.

The custom artwork should include key elements such as the organization’s insignia, symbols, images, text, and other important details such as dates or locations to commemorate special occasions or recognize achievements.

The coin design works hand in hand with the size of the coin. The design must fit perfectly on the challenge coin with all the details visible. If the design for the challenge coin is very detailed, consider a larger coin, like two or three inches. If this size is too big, you can update the image and remove any details that are too small to see. Our designers will help you with this step to ensure the design is not altered too much.

Making the Custom Mold

Mold creation is the next step when making custom challenge coins. Then, the mold is used to create the final shape and details of the coin.

First, the custom design is converted to a vector file and imported to computer design software.

Then, a computer-controlled cutting machine uses the image file to carve the design into the steel mold.

Once the mold is finished, it is tested to ensure the image stamps perfectly on the coin blank. The steel is tempered if it passes the test to ensure it will stand up to multiple strikings.

One of the perks of working with PinProsPlus is that we do not charge a mold fee. However, these can become very expensive, and we want you to have the coins you need without any added costs.

Striking the Coin

Once the mold has been created, it's time to strike the challenge coin. The challenge coin minting process involves using high pressure to press the mold onto coin blanks. This process is also known as die striking, which makes the raised design elements and recessed areas of the coin.

This step is also important for making any custom shapes. Some of these include triangles, bottle opener coins, or rectangles.

The process can be done either by hand or machine, depending on the size and complexity of the order and how the coin is manufactured.

Custom Edges

Custom edges add a unique design or shape to the outer rim of the challenge coin. You can add this feature to enhance the overall look and feel of the custom coin. The custom edges are added to the original mold for a seamless look.

We offer various custom edge options at PinProsPlus, including spur-cut, ridged, diamond-cut, oblique line, bevel-cut, and more. Custom edges can also be combined with other elements, such as lettering or symbols, to create a truly unique design.


After the challenge coins have been struck, they must be polished. The polishing process involves smoothing out the rough edges and the surface of the coins, which happens as part of the striking process.

Polishing also helps to remove any small imperfections or blemishes that may have occurred during the striking process making it an important step in ensuring the best possible coins.

There are several methods for polishing challenge coins, including hand polishing and machine polishing. Hand polishing uses a soft cloth or brush to buff the coin to a high shine.

On the other hand, machine polishing is a modern and quicker method. It uses abrasive media in which the coin will tumble around to smooth the edges perfectly.


After striking, the coins go through the plating process, where they are coated with a thin layer of metal to enhance their appearance and keep them looking new for years to come. Coins can also have multiple layers of plating for a more detailed look.

While this step does impact the challenge coin pricing, it can take an otherwise bland custom coin and make it special.

Here is a quick overview of our custom challenge coin plating options:

  • Gold Plating: A layer of gold is applied to the custom challenge coin to create a warm tone.
  • Silver Plating: A layer of silver is applied to the surface to give it a classic coin look. This is a popular option for creating sleek, modern-looking challenge coins.
  • Antique Plating: This method creates a vintage look by adding a layer of antique metal to the coin's surface.
  • Bronze Plating: This method is popular for creating challenge coins with a warm, earthy tone while not being made from solid bronze. Bronze plating gives the coin an old-school feel.
  • Nickel Plating: This option is popular for creating challenge coins with a bright silver tone while looking slightly different from silver plating.

Overall, color and plating are important steps in creating custom challenge coins as they add to their overall look and feel. The right combination of color and plating can enhance the challenge coin's design and make it truly unique.

Adding Coloring

Next, color is added to enhance the custom coin design. This step is not required but can give the challenge coin’s design a cool and unique look.

Coloring is done in a few different ways, such as:

  • Soft Enamel involves filling the recessed areas of the coin with color. The enamel paint is then baked to make a hard enamel coin with a smooth, durable finish.
  • Offset Digital Printing uses digital printing technology to add color to the coin. The color is transferred onto the coin using a high-quality printing process.
  • Epoxy Resin involves coating the entire surface of the coin with a clear, protective layer of an epoxy coating to enhance the color and protect the coin from wear and tear.

Finishing the Coin

Once the challenge coin has all the colors and details perfect, it is time to ensure it will hold up for years while still looking great by adding a finish to the coin. Here are a few options:

  • Sandblasting: Sandblasting is a finishing technique that uses high-speed streams of abrasive particles to create a matte, textured finish on the coin.
  • High-Polish Finish: A high-polish finish gives a challenge coin a bright, shiny appearance.
  • Matte Finish: A matte finish gives a challenge coin a soft look. This finish is achieved by sandblasting the coin and sealing it for added protection.

Final Inspection and Packaging of Custom Challenge Coins

Once the custom challenge coins have been finished, they go through a quality control check. These checks ensure that each coin is perfect, meets your specifications, and is free from defects. Any custom coins that fail the quality control check are rejected and returned to be fixed or re-struck.

After quality control is completed, the coins are packaged for shipping. The packaging for challenge coins can range from simple plastic bags or a small leather pouch to more elaborate packaging options like custom coin display cases. Still, it all comes down to personal preference and your budget.

The packaging is designed to protect the metal coin from damage and to showcase it in the best possible way.

Let the experts at PinProsPlus help you make the perfect custom challenge coin. Contact us today for a free quote and to work with our design team.

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