How to Choose Metals When You Design Your Own Coin

Hoth User - Sep 23, 2019
How to Choose Metals When You Design Your Own Coin

Metal is all around us. Even our earth's crust is made primarily out of aluminum. And out of the 118 currently known elements, 91 of them are metals.

Metals have been in use since ancient times. Ancient humans knew of only seven which were copper, silver, gold, lead, tin, mercury, and iron.

Around the 5th or 6th century BCE coins were introduced into society as a method of payment. However, no one is quite sure who came up with the idea to use coins.

Some people today enjoy designing their own coins. But it's important to decide which metal to use when you design your own coin.

Keep reading to learn which metals to use and why.

The Metals to Consider When You Design Your Own Coin

The first coins were made of electrum. Electrum is an alloy of gold and silver.

Today's coins are made either from a zinc alloy cast or die struck bronze.

Zinc Alloy

With zinc alloy castings, they offer decent quality but the process is lower cost.

However, challenge coins made through the zinc alloy process often lose their finish over time. The base metal may end up exposed. Zinc is best for decorative coins meant for display.

Die Struck Bronze

The die struck bronze process is how brass coins are made. This process is more expensive but delivers much higher quality than zinc alloy.

The Plating

Another metal you'll need to choose is the coin's plating. The plating is the external finish found on coins.

Most commonly the options are gold, silver, nickel, black nickel or copper. You may also choose a combination of two metals.

Antique Plating

Antique plating is an extremely popular option. You can choose between gold, silver, and copper.

Antique Gold

Antique gold plated coins offer a warmer look with a darker finish. Perfect for showing off fine details and/or small script.

Antique Silver

Antique silver plating looks almost pewter-like. You end up with a black and white quality that is timeless and classic.

Antique silver is the darkest option of the three choices.

Antique Copper

Antique copper looks reddish. This metal creates a unique shading effect when used on 3D coins. On 2D design, there's a deep shading effect across the details.

But there's also more to consider besides the metal you want to use for your plating. Coin sizes and shapes are also factors.

High Polish

If you prefer the look of a freshly minted coin, the high polish is the obvious choice.

High Polish Gold

With gold high polish, you can make out the fine details on intricate designs. Choose high polish gold if you want to incorporate dark painted areas that contrast the polished gleam.

High Polish Silver

The high polish silver closely resembles silver currency. It also catches the light easily.

High Polish Copper

High polish copper gives off a reddish hue. This is perfect for those looking to create coins using textured designs and effects.

Specialty Coin

If you're looking to make rare military challenge coins then using a specialty coin plating is a great option. Specialty plating offers unusual and rare options to make any collection distinctive.

Black Metal

Black metal coin plating comes with a dull matte finish. This type of finish is very different from the shiner, glossier versions offered with antique plating or high polish plating.

However, if you want to create colorful designs and/or use enamel, the dark color provides the perfect backdrop to highlight your work.


Rainbow metal plating uses anodized metal. The result is a colorful rainbow effect on a coin. You'll notice a variety of different colors when you look at rainbow plated coins.

Dual Metals

Dual metal coin plating is most commonly used to represent rank colors in military coins. The process plates the surface with two different types of metals on different parts of the coin.

It's also a good choice if you want to create two-tone effects on coins to highlight a specific part of a design. It also creates a great contrast to plated elements in a design.

Coin Sizes

You have the options when it comes to coin sizes. Coin size differs from country to country.

However, the most common size used today for coins is 2" diameter. Coins today are either 2" or larger which makes coins under 1.5" rare and typically are for very special applications.

Coin Sizes Differ Between Countries and Military Units

US coin sizes are different than what you will find in the UK or elsewhere. You may want to consult a coin size chart to ensure you get exactly the size you need.

Also, the military has its own set of coin sizes. Consult with a military unit sizes chart if you're designing military coins.

Coin Shape

You can even choose different shapes for the coins you make. You may want to choose shapes such as a dog tag, map or even unit patches.

Options to Make Coins Unique

Once you've chosen your plating, you need to continue making a few more decisions.


You can choose different types of edging for your coin:

Choices like the straight edge are considered standard and therefore do not incur extra charges. The reeded edge makes your coin resemble a quarter. It's also the least popular and is the most expensive type of edge.

Types of Coins

There are also four types of coins which are:

Most people prefer the swirl and the wave. These cost extra due to the separate cutting stage but it does offer unique design options.

Epoxy Coating

Epoxy Coating is applied to either a portion or entire surface of the coin. It protects the surface from scratches and also provides depth to the coin's surface.


Sandblasting softens the surface to read the text more easily.

Sequential Numbering

Sequential numbering is used if you want to show that only a specific number of these exact coins have been produced. It's a good idea if you want to show you're part of a select group.


You can opt to add color to one or both sides of your coin. You can even cover the entire surface with color. Colors are applied by hand.

Get a Free Quote

If you're ready to design your own coin, we can help. All we need is a bit of information and we'll provide you with digital proof of your design.

And it's free until you're ready to make them. Click here to receive your free, no-obligation quote today.