Back to the Basics: Challenge Coin Plating Options

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When designing your challenge coin, changing the plating option can completely alter the look and feel of your coin. Since the challenge coin’s plating is vital to the overall aesthetic of your custom coin, we’ve put together this article to help you learn a bit about our available options.

With this information about coin colors and options, you’ll learn how to leverage each one to improve your custom challenge coin design. However, before we begin, let’s take a quick look at just what a challenge coin’s plating is!

First, a little bit about Challenge Coin Plating Options

The custom challenge coin’s plating refers to the metallic finish on the surface of the coin. Our most popular options are either polished or antique gold and silver plated coins, but we also offer a variety of other finishes as well, such as antique copper.

Most of our challenge coin plating options are done using a process called electroplating. Electroplating chemically bonds the plating metal to the surface of the base metal. The chemical bond is permanent, meaning it is not coming off! 

So, you don’t have to worry about the plating on your custom coins chipping or peeling. Two other plating processes we use to create our challenge coins are powder coating and anodization. 

Powder coating is an electrostatic process used to color metals. With powder coating, you can make the metal any color you want, but our most common powder-coated metal finish is the black metal plating option. The last process we use, anodization, is an electrochemical plating process that gives the metal a really cool, rainbow-like finish.

Polished Challenge Coin Plating

All of our polished challenge coin plating options are created using an electroplating process that creates a permanent chemical bond between the plating and the base metal. The gold challenge coin and silver challenge coin are our most popular finishes, but don’t forget about copper! 

If you’re looking for a “rose gold” finish, copper is the perfect option. One thing to consider when choosing a polished plating is what colors to incorporate into your challenge coin design. All three options look great with dark-colored enamel fills because they create great contrast, but they don’t always pair well with lighter colors, like high polished copper, since there is less contrast between the metal and the color fills and raised metallic wording can be harder to read.

Antique Challenge Coin Plating

Our antique plating is a wonderful upgrade feature that lends the challenge coin a rustic, worn appearance. They’re plated similarly to high polished challenge coins, using the electroplating process. However, after they are finished being plated, they get soaked in an antiquing solution, giving the challenge coins a dull, dark finish, quite different from high polished gold. 

They then get brushed, which results in raised portions of the challenge coin becoming lighter, while the recessed areas remain dark. This significantly increases contrast,  making raised elements pop (especially on 3D challenge coins). It also heightens the legibility of raised metallic text. When someone wants to create a custom challenge coin with 3D or raised metal text on a die-struck coin, we almost always recommend antique plating. It vastly improves legibility, and makes 3D detailing on a sandblasted metal background much more exquisite.

Dark Metal Plating Options

We have two different types of dark metal challenge coin plating options: black nickel and black metal. They seriously couldn’t be any more different! The black nickel challenge coin is a dark polished plating that uses the same electroplating process as our other polished plating options. 

It is the go-to coin for anyone wanting a hard enamel challenge coin with dark lines. Black metal is created using a different plating process and can only be used to make soft enamel challenge coins. The real deciding factor, though, generally comes down to two questions: How dark do you want your coin, and do you prefer a polished or matte finish? 

Black nickel is more of a dark gray, closely resembling a gun metal color, while black metal is pitch black and significantly darker. Black metal also doesn’t have a shiny, polished finish like that of its black nickel counterpart. Either way you go, both make wonderful plating options!

Specialty Plating Options

We offer three types of specialty plating options: dual plating, colored metal, and anodized metal (which is commonly referred to as rainbow metal). With dual-plated coins, we combine two different plating options. Our most popular dual plating options are antique gold and antique silver plating. 

The only real restraint is that when choosing metal combinations, you have to stick to one plating type for each custom coin project. This means you can’t have polished gold with antique silver, or vice versa. For example, anodized metal can’t be dual-plated because it is created using an electrochemical plating process that is unique to itself. However, you can still go crazy with metal combinations! 

Some of our favorite and less ordered options, include black nickel with gold and black nickel with copper. The vibrant colors of the polished gold and copper really pop off of the dark shiny black nickel finish. Lastly, colored metal is metal made any color you want! It’s not a commonly ordered option, but we can use the same powder- coating plating process to make red, blue, or even green metal.


As you can see, we have a wide array of plating options for your challenge coins! The same plating processes listed here work for any of our other metal products, such as lapel pins, custom belt buckles, and medallions!

For a more traditional, professional look, we have our high polished plating options, which include polished gold plating, polished silver plating, polished copper plating, and black nickel. If you want a more rugged, worn look, we offer antiques in gold, silver, and copper. The contrast created by the antique wash also helps to highlight intricate detailing and makes raised metal text more legible. Lastly, we have a few specialty challenge coin plating options if you are looking for something more unique! 

These include polished and antique dual plating, colored metal, and anodized (rainbow) metal. Our available challenge coin options can be combined in seemingly endless ways, so if you’d like some guidance or professional advice, reach out to us. We’d be more than happy to help you create your own unique custom challenge coin!

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J and jarren
J and jarren
10 November 2023
My class spent well over $9,000 on our class coins. First issue, they didn't get them to us in a timely manner. We received them barely in time for graduation. Second, they sent us coins with a misspelled word (brave) as seen in the picture. Third issue, a lot of the spinners came broken, also as seen in the picture. When I reached out to the company, they claim sending replacement coins out at a later date is rectifying of this situation. Very empathetic to the situation at hand overall. Not very professional at all, terrible business practices and they definitely will not receive future business from me nor any recommendations either. Zero stars
M. Wong
M. Wong
27 October 2023
I found this company last year after a recommendation from a friend and I've ordered several times now. What keeps me coming back is the high level of customer service and responsiveness in the projects that have been created. The work product is also great and the quality of the coins, detail and just overall, I am very pleased with. This is my GO TO shop now for coins. Please check them out, you will not be disappointed! PS. Big shout to Corbin for his amazing guest service!
Stephen Ryan
Stephen Ryan
25 October 2023
This company is fantastic! I reached out to them to create a custom shaped coin with custom artwork that they had put together for me. The coins are a Veteran's Day thank you token for those who served at our company. We will definitely be returning for future orders. From start to finish, they were very open with communication, extremely fast to respond to concerns and questions, and lastly delivered something that blew us out of the water. Thank you so much!
Alejandra O'Connor
Alejandra O'Connor
25 October 2023
I ordered challenge coins on behalf of my government agency. Lone Star was easy to work with and did amazing things with the graphics I sent. They turned the artwork around quickly and each time it was better than what we had hoped for. We did have several back and forth messages to get the coin exactly as we wanted it. Our representative was so patient with us and had excellent customer service. We also got the coins in the mail quickly. Working with Lone Star was a wonderful experience end-to-end.
Italy Mair
Italy Mair
18 October 2023
Great service, great communication, and great products! Would definitely recommend them.
Rafael Moronta
Rafael Moronta
13 October 2023
Amazing artwork.. aside from the product what I loved most of our experience was the flexibility to create a coin that’s exceeds your own expectations. Thank you guys so much for making the process seamless and affordable!
5 October 2023
Absolutely fantastic company to work with. Communication was always quick, and the final product looked even better than the proof did. 10/10 would recommend!
26 September 2023
I engaged with Lone star challenge coins to make coins for my fiancé's celebration of life. I was pretty clueless about design, and they provided the perfect design. The coins arrived in time, and we were more than satisfied with the outcome. Their customer service was excellent as well. They guided me (held my hand) throughout the process, and were quick to respond. I cannot say enough about their product and company.
Debbie Avinger
Debbie Avinger
26 September 2023
We are so grateful for the work Lone Star Challenge Coins did for our nonprofit fundraising event! They worked with our budget and gave us medals with ribbons and challenge coins that were better than we expected.
Dan Kiser
Dan Kiser
22 September 2023
Corbin was very combative when I explained that the design provided was not at all reflective of the requests that I provided on the Inquiry form. Based on the customer service alone during that 1 phone call, I am not inclined to pursue any business with this company. EDIT: I spoke to the owner, Mike, and he helped rectify the situation and framed it as a learning opportunity for his team. This is a good reminder that people make mistakes but first impressions matter.
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