Back to Blog

Challenge Coins 101: High-Polish vs. Antique Coin Finishes

Posted by All About Challenge Coins | April 24, 2019 at 4:54pm | Topic: Challenge Coins 101
In one of our last Challenge Coins 101 we explored how your challenge coin's metal plating makes a big impact on your coin's look and feel. But before you sign off on your coin's metal, you need to make sure it has the right finish.  Today, we’re taking a closer look at how metallic finish mixes up the look and feel of your custom coins.

Comparing High-Polish and Antique Coins

Of the two options, high-polish coins tend to be our default option, offering a sparkling gleam that looks like a newly minted coin. High polish challenge coins are reflective and shiny, giving the metal plating option a cooler tone and making the coin itself more noticeable at a glance. Antique coins have a much more subdued matte appearance that’s not as shiny but gives a refined and detailed appearance. Antiquing a coin leaves shadowed areas in the recesses, with the raised areas looking brighter in comparison. The darkened recesses of an antique coin are great for defining fine details and design elements. Not to mention, the aged appearance gives a warmer and more classical feel to a coin. Choosing high polish over antique isn’t always as simple as saying one is subjectively better than the other. It all depends on your coin design and personal preferences. Deciding between the two is all part of the initial design process but All About Pins can help you weigh your options.

Design Advice for High-Polish Challenge Coins

When designing a high polish coin you want to make the most of the shining surface while finding ways to highlight fine details in the design. High-polish means there's not a lot of natural shading on the coin's surface so use simple designs with dark colors to create contrast and make the most important details standout. Here are a few quick guidelines from our designers to make the most of a high polish finish:
  • Keep text recessed and color-filled: A quick way to highlight any text on a coin is to keep the words recessed instead of raised and then to contrast the text with a dark color fill. This prevents shining light from making the words illegible and the dark colors will immediately stand out against the bright metal finish.
  • Accent color-heavy designs: Paint-heavy designs take special advantage of high polish because of the gleaming surface better frames and highlights solid colors while still giving a coin a polished look. Meanwhile, paint-heavy designs can sometimes waste the extra detail you’d get out of antique plating.
  • Keep designs simple and geometric: Unless you plan to fill in a lot of color detail, you want to avoid depicting or drawing anything with small lines or too many curved surfaces on a high polish coin. The reflective surface can create light glare all over a coin and make it hard to see or notice small details like guns, faces, buildings, hair, and complicated emblems.

Design Advice for Antique Challenge Coins

Going antique helps bring out a lot of fine detail in just about any design. In many cases, an antique coin can look great without any additional color or embellishment. Following these guidelines can help you get the best look out of a coin design:
  • Detail-heavy designs shine with antique: Because of the shadowed recesses and curves, an antiquing a coin can highlight the smallest details and curves of a complicated design to make sure it stands out and is clearly defined. Textured detail on fur, wings, stonework, and faces especially become easier to distinguish at a glance. The busier and more complicated a look, the more defined and clear it’ll look in antique.
  • Definitely go 3D: If you have a 3D design with visual depth or based on a photograph, it’s definitely going to look leagues better on an antique coin. The curves and smoothed out textures of a 3D image take full advantage of the darker recesses for clear visibility.
  • Less color is more: Using too much enamel paint with antique plating wastes the unique aesthetic you’d get. Instead, focus on highlighting specific design details such as an organizational symbol, a background element or a specific recessed area.

Make it Your Own

All About Challenge Coins offers high-quality custom coins in both high polish and antique finishes, giving our clients full license to explore design options and make each project unique. While the advice in this article is effective for many designs, every coin is unique and you have the freedom to experiment until you’re completely satisfied with how your coin looks in either high polish or antique. Still need help? Be sure to explore our site for additional resources: