How A Challenge Coin Is Made?

Published: 02nd February 2009
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Currently, there are two processes to produce military challenge coins. The die struck (stamped/minted) process and the die casted "hot molded" process.

Both these processes produce level 1 (1D) level 2 (2D) and level 3 (3D) on challenge coins and are called graduation levels. These graduation levels are the "raised" portion of the coin design which makes the coin design stand out.

To produce the 2D and 3D in the die casted process molten metal is used to molded the design into the metal giving it a smooth graduation of 2D and 3D. In the case of the die struck process several metal cutouts are made and then "glued" on top of each other to produce the 2D and 3D required by the coin design. This graduation of levels gives the design a "step-like" look.

Die Casted Process.

The die casting process has been around for 6000 years and is a high end precision method which is used for designs which have intricate detail and require high quality finished product.

The die casted high end precision process where detailed precision is required is well suited for military challenge coins which have intricate designs, high detail and a requirement for fine surface quality and 2D, 3D accuracy (realism).

The process consists of forcing molten metal under pressure into the mold die. Once the metal is cooled, the coins are removed, polished, cleaned and then paints are injected into the design on the coins

This process of producing challenge coins gives the challenge coins an exceptional surface finish, uniform design, a superior coin and off course 2D/3D accuracy.

Die cast coins have unvarying, progressive 2D/3D molded into the metal which produces a superior, high quality challenge coins. The die casted coins are all standard level 2 (2D). Which have a smooth graduation of 2D and 3D. Unlike the die struck "step-like" look of (2D/3D) multi-level die struck metal pieces "glued" together.

The only drawback to the die casted method is the edges of the wording on the coin is "rounded". The die struck process produces "sharp" squared edged wording due to the stamping process.

Challenge Coins - Die Struck (minted/stamped)

The die struck method creates coins in levels. Initially, dies are made for both sides of the design. Then metal is inserted between the dies and then the coin design is "double stamped" simultaneously onto both sides of the metal, with about 15 tons of pressure. The stamping process "presses" and "pushes the metal out and up to create the raised and recessed areas of the challenge coin design? This process only produces level 1 (1D) detail.

Those coin designs which require level 2 (2D) or level 3 (3D) detail, separate cutouts are made and then "glued" on top of the recessed level 1 (1D) for the level 2 (2D), to produce the 2D and 3D graduation levels required by the design.

This "multi-level" 2D/3D detail gives the die struck challenge coin the "step like" (multi layers glued together) graduation look which has a high failure rate where the "glued" cutouts have a tendency to fall apart.

Because of the intensive labor and higher cost, majority of the die struck companies only manufacture level one (1D) designs, using the "multiple stamping" process, stating they produces level 2 (2D) and level 3 (3D) detail.


The die struck manufacturing process should be the used for simple designs which require 1D, medals, one side coin designs, lapel pins, tokens and badges.

The die casted process should be used for detailed complex precision designs, which require fine surface quality and level 2 (2D) and level 3 (3D), accuracy which should be a requirement for military challenge coins.

Jonathan is an avid challenge coin collector an a contributing author to this website. He recommends Military Supply Company for your challenge coins needs.

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