About Challenge Coins

All coins offer an inherent value that spans monetary, historical and emotional events throughout civilization. Military coins are a highly-prized and fascinating collectible, as many have a very personal story to tell, and one which often transcends far beyond monetary value.

The Origin of Military Coins

The history of military coins can be traced back to Ancient Rome, where Roman emperors minted celebrative coins for soldiers returning from battle. These coins offered a decorative value to every soldier, as each coin had a unique marking of the army legion in which they served. While soldier coins had a standard monetary value of the times, recipients would typically keep them as memorable coins and souvenirs of their military careers. Military coins are often considered a priceless gift due to the emotional value which they hold. For these reasons, military coins and other coin rewards make memorable gifts that come with a unique and very personal moment in history.

Military Coin Designs by Boss Coins

The Origin of Challenge Coins

As popular as they are among today’s military, challenge coins were never officially sanctioned, and are believed to have originated some time during the last century, with their exact history a topic of hot debate among military historians. One narrative suggests that the first challenge coins originated with a wealthy American lieutenant during World War I, who designed and issued bronze coins to members of his unit prior to deployment. Another account states that it wasn’t until the Vietnam War, when soldiers visiting an infantry-run tavern had to reveal a challenge coin or enemy bullet to gain entrance, did challenge coins would come to prominence.

Today, challenge coins reflect a tradition of military service and camaraderie among the members of its various branches, while custom challenge coins have also made their way into civilian life and organizations, where they hold a similar value of service and reward.

Unique challenge coins are often awarded for military service or duty, graduation from a training program, or as a token of gratitude from a president, commander or other military officer. National dignitaries often award one another with challenge coins, passed through a handshake, as a token of goodwill or for the purposes of strong foreign relations. Challenge coins are a very popular collector’s item and are often prized for their value and rarity.

The Origin of Commemorative Coins

During the Renaissance, exclusive coins became a popular form of commemoration among nobility and were dubbed “Portrait Medals”. These family coins often depicted the likeness of an individual on one side and a respective honour, seal or symbol of lineage on the other. Commemorative coins were exchanged and granted among nobility to highlight a special event, serve as a gift or to bestow an honour, and were highly-valued for their artistic and personal significance.

Corporate and Civilian Coins by Boss Coins

Corporate and Civilian Challenge Coins

In civilCorporate Challenge Coinsian life, challenge coin creators produce coins that can be found among various organizations ranging from government agencies to public services, members clubs, sports teams, private companies and so on. Each of these coins have a similar symbolic value in their recognition of achievement.

Today, portrait medals are considered an exquisite collector’s item of unmatched rarity. The original medals date back hundreds of years and offer a glimpse into the artistic culture of the Renaissance era, where age-old lineages and key figures can be linked to historical events with the help of these one-of-a-kind pieces.

 

Modern Personal Coins

Heros Challenge CoinsWhile scholars and collectors recognise the value of traditional portrait medals, modern family coins have become a prized collectible in their own right, with commemorative coins offering a newfound tradition in modern times.  This tradition has been passed onto families around the US and the world who wish to remember a particular family member or celebrate a special moment in life such as retirement, weddings or a new born child. At Boss Coins we love working together on these very personal projects, always making sure each coin is unique and able to translate the full emotions of the event or person it portraits.

 

Design Your Own Coin

Boss Coins makes it simple-and-easy to design your own coin and be part of the wonderful history of coinage. Choose from a wide-variety of shapes, sizes, plating and edges, then customise it your way — add a special 3D effect, turn your coin into a bottle opener or a souvenir key chain.

Get ready to mint your own coin, boss!

 

Famous Coin Makers in History

Was the first coin maker in history a woman? What does Isaac Newton have to do with the way our coins look today? In this article we explore these and other interesting facts about the history coins and the amazing people behind some of the most famous coin designs.

A Brief History of Coins

The true origin of coins is as mysterious as it is intriguing. It’s hard to establish precisely how or when the world’s first coins began to circulate, but historians would agree that metal objects saw common exchange—whether by weight or for commodities—as early as 5000 BC.

At a certain point in history, ingots became a form of currency, and had an inscribed seal or certificate of their metal weight and purity, which included gold, silver, copper and bronze. Stamped or sealed ingots predated minted coins, however, written records reveal that ancient coin makers in China were producing coins out of cut or rounded metals as early as 3300 BC. While not much is known about these ancient coins today, it is believed that these early “money coins” were round, without inscriptions, and made from iron. Bronze money coins, which were round with a cut-out square in the middle, would be introduced during the Chou dynasty, around 1105 BC.

Today, numismatics divides coin history into four major classes: Chinese coins, Ancient coins, Medieval Coins, and Modern Coins. Ancient Greek historian Herodotus would attribute the first ever coin mintage to the Lydians, stating that they were the first people to master the art of coinage. Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom in modern Western Turkey, and minted coins of gold and silver alloy, known as electrum, as early as the 7th century BC. Some of the earliest coin designers in history were priests in the Lidyan kingdom, where they would produce “die-struck” coins which portrayed images of animals, the most famous of which was a lion, and would use these coins in religious rituals. Shortly thereafter, King Allyattes of Lydia (610-560 BC) became the first ruler to issue gold and silver coins as an official currency among the populace.

Some historical texts suggest that King Midas of 8th century BC married a princess by the name Hermodike II, who was considered the first coin maker of Ancient Greece and was responsible for bringing coin making knowledge to the western world. This historical context is somewhat conflicting with the chronology of coin usage in the Kingdom of Lydia, which has led many historians to suggest that Hermodike II was actually married to King Allyattes, and was in fact responsible for communicating the knowledge of coin making from Lydia to Ancient Greece. While precise historical events remain unclear, historians often agree that Hermodike II may have very well been responsible for introducing the knowledge of coin making across the world.

Let’s look into them in more detail:

 

King Alyattes

Lydian Lion
Lydian Lion

Alyattes of Lydia was the first-ever monarch in recorded history to issue minted coins as a form of official currency. Although the first stamped coins, made of electrum and called the Lydian Lion, were recognised as a tax token for noblemen, they remain as the first substantial recording of minted coins used as a form of currency among a population in history.

 

 

Hermodike II

The Ancient Greek princess Hermodike II is credited by Aristotle with being the originator of coin making in western civilisation and is thought to have brought the archaic art of coinage from the Kingdom of Lydia to Ancient Greece, where it would swiftly become a standardised form of currency among the general population and revolutionise trade and commerce for the entire world.

Moneyers in the Middle Ages

 

Minting coins the medieval way
Minting coins the medieval way

 

Most coin designers of the Middle Ages remain unknown to history as they are believed to have played a small role in the process of coinage, which typically involved the issuance of an approved die cast from a King or dignitary to licensed moneyers who would then mint the coins for circulation. One historical account reveals how during the reign of King Henry III of England, the coinage was altered and made more precise to deter money clipping (the removal of small bits of silver from the edge of a coin), and a new die was issued to be used freely by licensed moneyers. Throughout and after King Henry III’s reign, a large number of people would be convicted of money clipping and hanged for their alleged crimes.

Pisanello (Renaissance)

Commemorative coins are born.

During the Renaissance, exclusive coins became a popular form of commemoration among nobility and were dubbed “Portrait Medals”. These family coins often depicted the likeness of an individual on one side and a respective honour, seal or symbol of lineage on the other. Commemorative coins were exchanged and granted among nobility to highlight a special event, serve as a gift or to bestow an honour, and were highly-valued for their artistic and personal significance.

Cecilia Gonzaga portrait medal by Pisanello, 1447

Born in the late 14th century, Pisanello was a famous painter and draftsmen of the Italian Renaissance, and is credited with inventing the first portrait medal. Inspired by the Byzantine emperor John VIII Paleologus’s visit to the Roman Catholic Church, Pisanello made sketches of the emperor which he would use to design a 10cm-wide cast metal relief of the emperor’s portrait. This newfound artistic concept garnered the interest of Italian nobility, who began commissioning Pisanello for custom portrait medals and quickly spreading their popularity across Europe. 

Today, portrait medals are considered an exquisite collector’s item of unmatched rarity. The original medals date back hundreds of years and offer a glimpse into the artistic culture of the Renaissance era, where age-old lineages and key figures can be linked to historical events with the help of these one-of-a-kind pieces.

Isaac Newton

The inventor of modern milled coin edges.

One of the most famous scientists in history, Isaac Newton may surprise you to know that he was in charge of the Royal Mint for 30 years and played a major role in how our money coins are shaped today.

Because coin clipping were such a major problem during his time, Isaac Newton provided the solution of rounding coins and marking their edges with letters or other fine graining using milling machines.

The new coinage made it virtually impossible to clip coins without notice, and solved an age-old dilemma which had seen countless (and questionably-guilty) individuals hanged for money clipping.

George T. Morgan

A famous coin designer, George T. Morgan served as a chief engraver of the United States mint from 1917 and designed several popular coins, one of which was the Morgan dollar. This famous coin is known for its role in the Pittman Act of 1918, which saw up to 350 million silver dollars melted by the United States in order to replenish England’s shortage of silver during World War I. This accounted for a large portion of the Morgan Silver Dollar mintage, a supply which was eventually replaced by the Peace dollar in 1921.

Roman Booteen

Modern artist Roman Booteen is world-renowned for his talents in hobo nickel — the art of hand-engraving coins into creative and often intricate pieces. Coin engraving dates back hundreds of years, with the term ‘hobo nickel’ rising to popularity in the early 20th century thanks to the US nickel’s softness and dimensions, while the art form also includes a wide-variety of coins and metals.

You!

How about becoming a coin maker yourself? At Boss Coins we find that the best designs evolve when the clients gives us detailed inputs during the creation process. We love working together to create unique coin designs. With free proof and unlimited revisions, you can feel free to design your dream coin with us.

All you need to get started is to get in touch with us. If you have any references to share that’s great, if not, just tell us what you have in mind and we will give you some suggestions. Let’s get creative together!

How Coins are Made

State of the Art Manufacturing – The Boss Coins Promise

Quality Guarantee

We want your coins to stand the test of time, just like the memories they hold. At Boss Coins we use state of the art coin manufacturing equipment to make sure every detail, from mold production to plating to enamel filling comes out smoothly on the coin. We use only premium quality materials so you can be sure to expect the very best quality each time. 

Our coins are rust proof, scratch resistant and have that jewellery feel you can only get from the very best coin craftsmen. Minting coins is an art that demands time to master. Our manufacturing team is lead by experts with over 20 years of experience in the field.

Challenge Coin Production Gallery

Click on an image to enlarge

Making the mold

The mold is made of high carbon steel. We import the vector art file into the CNC engraving machine program and edit the tool path to engrave the mold. During the mold verification process, we compare the mold to the artwork to make sure it’s perfect before stamping. The mold is then heat-treated to enhance hardness and durability.    

Stamping

We install the mold on the workbench of the punching or hydraulic press machine, stamp and transfer the pattern onto the sized strap of metal. At Boss Coins, we always use brass as the base metal, which is the heaviest and most premium metal used for challenge coins. If it’s a complex 3D design that requires melting the metal then we use zinc-alloy, which is around 10% lighter than brass.  

Polishing

We then polish the raw coin to remove the punching burrs and improve the smoothness and shine of the coin.  

Electroplating

The coins are racked, cleaned, and then plated using electricity to make the plating metals (gold, silver, copper) stick to the raw coin metal (brass or zinc). The plating layer will prevent metal oxidation, improve wear and corrosion resistance, and also enhance aesthetics. When the coins are plated with more than one metal, for example, silver and gold, it’s called dual plating. Dual plated coins go twice through the plating process, once for each metal. We cover the areas that are going to be plated with a different metal manually with tape.

Enamel filling

The enamel colors are mixed and prepared in advance according to the Pantone cards. The coins are then colored with enamel by our high precision machines, or by hand, or a combination of both. After coloring, the coins are baked at high temperatures in the oven to dry and enhance the colorfastness. 

The entire process usually takes 2 weeks but we are able to rush coin production to 1 week if necessary, in exceptional circumstances.

Mold Types

Die Cast vs Die Struck Coins

 


Die casting is the process by which molten metal is poured into a die and left to cool and harden into a coin, medallion or other object shaped by the intricate details of the customised die. It is ideal for portraits and other elaborate images.

Die struck coins are made through the process of force, where a metal press is used to stamp the die onto a raw metal and create the intended design. Die striking is ideal for detailed colourations with enamel and is often preferred in the case of higher quality metals.

Coin Plating Types and Styles

Coin plating offers a variety of metals, styles and finishes to choose from. Metals include gold, silver, nickel, and copper, and come with the option of a high-polished or antique finish — based on your preference for an elegant and shiny coin or a refined matte colour with timeless antique features. Your coin can also be “dual plated”, when more than one type of plating is used on the same coin.

Enamel Types

The difference between hard and soft enamel lies in how the coin is finished. With hard enamel, any recessions left behind after moulding are filled with colour and are polished flush with the surrounding metal. With soft enamel, the coins are not polished and any added colour is left below the level of the raised metal. Other unique enamel finishes can be used in some designs, such as: neon, transparent, glitter and glow in the dark.

Custom Challenge Coin Pricing

The price of your custom challenge coin depends on two key elements in the production process:

Mold Charges

Challenge coin makers rely on the same process used in the creation of currency coins, which all starts with the mold design. Because each mold is unique and requires detailed craftsmanship to develop, a mold fee applies to each new design in the coin-making process. Mold fees vary by coin size, shape, and other features, such as 3D elements and designs. We keep every mold in our files for 2 years.

Price per Coin

The price per coin is calculated separately from the mould fee, and will depend on the coin’s size, complexity, and optional details. For example, the number of enamel colours, enamel filling areas and sizes, and the presence of 3D elements and custom shape edges which may include numbering, engraving and picture inserts will all be taken into consideration when calculating the price per coin.

Coin Extras

Finally, serial numbers or customised names can be added elsewhere on the coin. The coin’s edge, aka “the third side of the coin”, is a great space to add lettering, numbers, and custom designs for an even more unique look. Edges can be engraved by hand-carving, with a laser, or moulded onto the coin during the casting process.

You can also turn your coin into a bottle opener, a keychain, make it into a pin or a magnet. Anything is possible. At Boss Coins, we love the challenge of producing complex coins which can be added to your collection of timeless pieces, serve as a wonderful gift coin or even find its own special place in history.