Primarily there are 2 processes used to produce challenge coins. The die casted (hot molded) and the die struck (stamped/minted) process.
Both of these process produce 2D/3D (raised) challenge coins. The 2D/3D (raised) consists of two or more flat plains on top of each other called graduation levels. These graduation levels are level 1 (1D), level 2 (2D), level 3 (3D). The 2D/3D variations or graduation in levels makes the logo or image more realistic.
In the case of the die casted process the 2D/3D is molded into the coin metal. In the die struck coins the 2D/3D are metal cutouts “glued” together, into the recessed areas of the die struck military coins.
Die Casted Challenge Coins.
The die casting manufacturing process, is a high end efficient process for precision designs, producing the highest quality military challenge coins. It is especially suited for applications which require high detail, complex designs and a fine surface quality and dimensional consistency, as required in military coins.
The end result of the die casted manufactured military coin is a uniform design, excellent surface finish and good dimensional (2D/3D) accuracy (realistic) and a superior challenge coin quality.
The die casted process consists of forcing molten metal under high pressure into mold cavities (die molds). Once the metal is cured, each coin is removed, cleaned, polished and then enamel paints are injected into the design.
Unlike the die struck “step-like” look of (2D/3D) multi-level die struck metal pieces “glued” together. Die cast coins have smooth, gradual 2D/3D molded into the metal to produce a high quality, superior military coin. All die casted coins are all standard 2D.
The limitation of the die casted process is the lettering, which is more “rounded” unlike the die struck process which produces “squared” sharp edged lettering due to the stamping process.
Die Struck (stamped/minted) Challenge Coins
The die struck process produces coins in levels. First, a die for both sides of the design is made. Then a metal is placed between the die’s and the design is “double stamped” simultaneously on both sides with about 15 tons of pressure, to get the raised and recessed areas of the design. This process “pushes” and “presses” the metal up and out to form the challenge coin design, level 1 (1D).
The military challenge coin designs which require two or more levels of detail (2D/3D), the die struck process consists of making metal cut-outs of the designs and then “glued” on top of the level 1 (1D) for the 2D logo or image. The 3D (logo or image) is “glued” on top of the 2D.
This 2D/3D “multi-level” detail of a die struck military coin, gives the challenge coin a “step like” look and has a high failure rate; meaning the “glued” pieces fall apart or wear out.
Due to the labor intensive and the high cost of producing 2D and 3D challenge coins, majority of the die struck manufactures only produce level one (1D) detail using the “double stamping” method. Even though they state their process produces 2D and 3D detail.
In conclusion, the die casted manufacturing process should be the process of choice for producing high quality, detailed 2D/3D challenge coins. The die struck manufacturing process should be the process of choice for simple designs which require level 1 (1D) detail, one sided coin designs, leather, lapel pins, tokens, badges and off course our coin currency.