Military challenge coins have been given to the men and women in the U.S. Military services as recognition for extraordinary valor, exceptional teamwork, to special crews and clubs in the armed forces for over 50 years. They are often times the prized possession of members of the Armed Services and are a symbol of loyalty and patriotism. Each is manufactured with specific graphics, colors and metals and are attractive symbols of great significance that are valued for a lifetime and beyond.
Challenge coins are normally presented by a high-ranking officer and considered a great honor to receive thereby enhancing morale. They prove membership in a unit or participation in a military effort. One of the most treasured coins is the one given after basic training for the Air Force. It marks the beginning of the military career of the new Airman.
Military coins can be can be etched, stamped with a die or 3D with different types of edges and may be very colorful or simply the color of the metal. They are usually manufactured with custom designs and the emblems of the military branch. The two most common types of military coins are hard or soft enamel.
The manufacturing process for hard and soft enamel is basically the same. The coin is stamped from a metal alloy such as brass and the image as well as the shape of the coin is formed by the stamping. The graphics have raised and recessed areas which give the coin depth. In the hard enameling process, the recesses are filled with color to the brim and baked at high temperatures. After cooling, the coin is polished so that that it is smooth and no recesses are felt.
Soft enameling does not fill the recesses to the brim but just below it. The same type of enamel color is used as in the hard enamel process. After baking, the recesses can still be felt. This gives the coin texture, dimension and character, and the reflected light enhances the design. A vast majority of military challenge coins are made with the soft enamel technique.
The artwork in a military challenge coin is what makes it attractive and special. Some people have an idea for a coin but have no idea how to draw it or turn it into a beautiful graphic. Other people have the idea and the skills to create a beautiful coin. The design should be in harmony with the manufacturing process for the best results. Professional artists who create coins can take an idea or simple drawing and create exactly the right coin.
The edge is another important aspect of a challenge coin and should harmonize with the graphic and meaning. The reeded edge is the tiny lines on the actual edge of the coin and looks like money. The other edges are on the face of the coin. The flat cut edge is a smooth and shiny line around the circumference of the coin. The rope cut edge has a braided effect around the coin. The spur edge resembles a star-burst around the coin, the flat weave or beveled cut looks like waves around the edge. The oblique line edge looks like slanted sun rays around the edge, and the diamond cross edge looks like woven gold bars around the edge of the coin.
Military coins are generally 3 to 4 millimeters thick, but they can be custom made to any thickness. Coins are made from a brass base metal and then plated in gold, silver, nickel, bronze and other metals. The base metal can be changed, but professional coin manufacturers will recommend the best base metal and plating metal for different types of designs. Steel is not a good base metal because, even though it has good weight, it does not take a die well for a clean cut design.
When ordering military coins, the purchaser should see clearly how the coin will look when completed. It is this high quality art work that will convince the purchaser that the coin will also be of high quality. A simple drawing of the possible coin will not show how the light affects the contours and colors of the actual coin. When selecting a coin manufacturer, the preliminary art work is very important. It would be a great disappointment to present an inferior product to the brave men and women in any military unit.
Some of the military challenge coin features include glow-in-the-dark paint and heat-changing paint. There is also glitter paint, opalescent paint and transparent paint. Plating can be two-tone with a shiny finish or an antique finish. Each coin can be personalized with laser engraving or edge text.
Military coins represent a proud tradition of recognizing valor and heroism for a job well done in any branch of the U.S. Military.