What's the difference between die struck, soft enamel, and hard enamel?

Die struck coins contain no color at all, like regular currency. Soft enamel is the standard challenge coin process, where we lightly fill recessed spaces with soft enamel color to retain some depth to the design. The hard enamel (also known as cloisonné) process has us fill those colors flush with the raised metal and fire-harden them for a smooth, jewelry-like finish.

Die struck coins will resemble regular currency -- just bigger! Die struck refers to striking a coin base with a die, or mold, as the sole method of producing its design. No enamel color is added, so die struck coins will simply be the color of the metal plating you choose! Die struck coins often look best with an antique finish to bring subtle shading and definition to the design, much like how an old quarter has a more recognizable bust of Washington than a brand new, shiny one due to the patina.

Example of a die struck coin
Example of a die struck coin

Soft enamel coins are the most popular and generally recognized as the standard when it comes to modern challenge coins. Through the die striking process, channels are indented into the coin base to fill with soft enamel color. Just enough of this color is added to fill the space without overflowing, leaving finished coins with a pleasant texture. All the color-filled areas will dip just slightly beneath the metallic outline of your design, producing depth and dynamism out of thin air -- a feast for the eyes and fingertips!

Example of a soft enamel coin
Example of a soft enamel coin

Hard enamel coins are modeled after the ancient art of cloisonné, where instead of lightly adding the colors, they're filled to the brim and fire-hardened to create a single, seamless surface with the outlining metal. This creates a smooth, luxurious finish not unlike jewelry or fine pottery. Luckily, you don't have to worry about a coin breaking if it hits the floor!

Example of a hard enamel coin
Example of a hard enamel coin