How to design a challenge coin is something I spend a great deal of my time discussing.  I have been doing it for 21 years and, as you may imagine, I have learned a thing or two.  You corporate types check out my entry on designing corporate challenge coins.

Glow in the dark challenge coins

Glow in the dark challenge coin


Yup.  We have done them.  They were actually pretty cool.  They are real challenge coins because it is a challenge to keep them charged up.  I mention them because they represent the length to which some coin designers are going too to best the competition.  So what is a military coin supposed to look like?  Here are some general categories.

Back to Basics

If you accept the premise that modern coins probably derive from unit mess tokens (and there is no doubt that they were around at the same time and in nearly the same form)  one could opt for the basic minimal approach.  When a coin maker like D & R Military Specialties creates a coin, the design is only of secondary importance with regard to cost.  So when it comes to the metal striking of the coin you can let your imagination run wild.  What about expensive 3d you ask?  Well it is not expensive.  The difference in die charges is not that much if at all.  So make your eagle stand out and not just be a line drawing.  You can create intricate designs and complicated relief without incurring additional expense.  There is an elegance to a beautiful custom coin with no color.  It is very “coin like”.

The Simple Traditional Challenge Coin

There is nothing at all wrong with the traditional  commander coin.  The unit crest or ships crest on one side and the commander and senior enlisted rank on the other.  Some add “Presented for excellence” but this is an interesting thing to discuss by itself.  If you want to go back to basics take a look at the  “History of Military Coins” we created for you.  There is inspiration here and a whole lot of challenge coin myth busting to boot.

Should Your Military Coins say “Presented for Excellence”?

Who do you intend to present it to?  You certainly would not want to give your superior officer a coin that says “PRESENTED BY THE COMMANDER FOR EXCELLENCE”….or would you?  There is a trend to leave this off of coins replacing it simply with the term “PRESENTED BY THE COMMANDER”.  This makes the coins more flexible.  You can use them for appreciation, excellence or just as a souvenir.   It is probably wise to check the appropriate regulation about this because there are rules which may apply.

You already have a challenge coin designer in your unit.

Trust me on this.  There is not a military unit of any size without a fair number of wonderful geeks.  These days the ability to create super graphics such as those used in coin design is a fairly common skill to the more computer savvy young service men and women.


I love a coin challenge.  We are happy to create your coin for you.  Our service goes beyond those of our competitors.  Not only will we create the coin design we will create the story behind each and every feature.  Over the years I have been interested in why commanders and others put the symbolism they do onto their coins.  I have heard fascinating stories, seen secret messages, and created some myself.  Every unit has its own unique story to tell and the personal stories of commanders and senior enlisted leaders can add to the mystique.  I am thinking of an example.  A challenge coin created for a signal might include a Morse code message around the edge.  Remember that glow in the dark paint?  That could be used to conceal a message on a coin.    The fun will be creating a coin story that will last long into the future.  Your challenge coin is a form of immortality.

Over-the-top Challenge Coin designs

So do you want the coins in pure silver?  We have done them.  They cost a boat-load of money but what a great solution for the “which plaque or sword should we buy” conundrum.  We can do sterling silver plate for the same price on your regular coin.  That is a useful option for special presentations.  We can make coins with the center that spins, and even holograms if your budget allows.  The ultimate challenge coin  has not been made yet but we would certainly like to be the ones who do when the time comes.  We have come pretty close.  My own coin, and I own a coin company, is pretty unique.  Call me your coins and I might just send you one.

This is your chance to tell your story

Remember that it is fun to present a coin and more fun when there is a story to go along with the presentation.  Whether you chose a solemn ceremony or a funny gag, the event surrounding presenting coins can greatly enhance their perceived importance.  We recently did a bottle opener challenge coin for a dining out.  Everyone got one and everyone got something to open.  They went over like gang busters.  I am still waiting for someone to order one in the shape of a P-38.  And that brings up a question.  Does anyone know what a P38 is anymore?  And no I don’t mean the plywood airplane. For my young friends, here it is.

So how to design a challenge coin?

The world’s most unique challenge coin  has not been made yet but when it is we want to make it.  Give me a call.  I get to be the owner and I would love to put my 21 years of challenge coin design experience to work for you.  Just dial now.  I can’t wait to meet you.  Rick  (520) 399-1527.