Challenge coins come in many shapes and sizes with a variety of designs set in gold, silver, bronze, copper or other metal alloys, and could be plated in rhodium, silver or gold. Because challenge coins are a symbol of one’s affiliation in an organization, it is imperative that they be made of apparent good quality manufactured from the best materials. A poorly made coin gives others a negative impression of the institution it pertains to. It could even signal to others that it is not genuine challenge coins of that organization one purports to have membership in. Highly-esteemed groups would clearly only use emblems of the best quality.
So in having coins produced, one must ensure that they bear the mark of excellent quality and authenticity.
In choosing the metal and finish for the coin, one has to go for a style that best suits the organization. The most expensive metal that can be used is 24-carat gold. This option is often reserved for limited edition coins or for medallions given as prestigious awards or gifts. Polished gold or silver has a sleek and posh look. If you want to convey modernity and discipline, then it would be best to go with this metal finish. Military groups and government agencies often go for this option.
A less expensive option that would give a similar gold or silver appearance is to have a metal alloy plated in a more precious metal. But, the plating could chip or wear off and expose the metal underneath. This is especially noticeable if the base metal is of a different color from the plating metal, e.g., copper base with silver plating.
For a more vintage look that conveys an air of heritage and a connection with history, one can go for antique gold or silver. Instead of polishing the metal to a high sheen, the metal is dulled down in order to give it an aged look. Other metals that would look good with the antiqued finish are brass and copper. Keep in mind to choose a manufacturer that actually plates the metal rather than simply exposing it and allowing it to oxidize.
Zinc alloy cast metal is the most popular inexpensive option for the coins. However, it makes the coin less valuable and renders the designs and engravings on the metal not as sharp and precise as with higher quality metals.
Take note that is not advisable to use nickel and nickel alloys for challenge coins. Plain nickel would discolor and if worn in direct contact with skin, it has a tendency to turn skin green. Many people are also allergic to this metal. Moreover, it looks quite cheap and appears as a toy.
The finish that you choose should match the design elements on your coin. An insignia bearing an old map of a city would look best on a yellow metal base with an antiqued finish. Likewise, a profile of a man in modern-day military regalia would look best on polished silver metal.
Most challenge coins also have painted designs instead of just having engravings as in the case of currency coins. Asking for color on the coin increases its cost but also makes it more distinctive. Painting is best done by hand and baked in a kiln to set. Some paints are able to give the coin an interesting texture or smoothens lines thereby emphasizing the design further. A protective coating is also applied to guard against cracks and fading.
For quality coins that offer an array of custom design options, you can check out makers online like www.challengecoins4less.com. The service allows customers to choose different metals and finishing in order to make their challenge coins special and fine-looking.