Unique Product Niche: Military Coins & Medallions

Proudly displayed in his office are many of the thousands of commemorative coins and medallions with which Steven Moore, account executive with Activate! Promotions + Marketing (asi/141964), has supplied the U.S. military over the past 14 years. The immeasurable variations in sizes, shapes, colors and designs offer a clear visual indication of the diversity of his client base.

Moore’s knack for working with the military, a discerning customer known for its formidable reams of red tape, undoubtedly stems from well-honed experience as one of its full-time employees. As a civil servant in various departments at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg and Georgia’s Fort Benning for almost 10 years, he became familiar with many of the Army’s inner workings, including the ever-popular challenge coin tradition: soldiers who achieve a given objective or show an aptitude for consistently going above and beyond for the team are presented with a commemorative coin or medallion in appreciation of their hard work. Moore even received his own coins as a press secretary and speechwriter for Army generals, as well as during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, when he teamed up with a reporter looking to research the history and achievements of one of the regiments.

After transitioning out of civil service, Moore joined his wife on the distributor side of the promotional products industry, which he quickly realized was the origin for most challenge coins.

“My wife had actually done a few herself, and I asked if we still had the capability to do it,” says Moore. “She said sure, and I told myself, ‘I’m going to be the Coin Man one day’.”

In 2002, after countless hours of prospecting, Moore received his first challenge coin order, which quickly led to others. Fourteen years later, he estimates he’s fulfilled orders for between 500,000 and a million pieces. Now with Activate!, the medallions and coins continue to make up about 40% of his business. Typically made of brass or metal alloy, Moore says the harder metals are die-struck, while others are die-cast, when the metal is melted down and poured into a molded cast. Moore advises the client, depending on the design, on which method would be better suited for their needs.

“The challenge coins are traditionally used as on-the-spot awards,” says Moore. “The commander will have a supply of them at all times, whether at headquarters or in the field, rather than submitting a name for consideration for an award. With all the red tape and bureaucracy, that could take months before approval.”

Moore also serves military clients overseas, including the Dutch Army, NATO, several European groups and even the Afghan Interior Minister. “I’ve also done non-military commemorative coins for the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins NFL teams and political figures such as North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory,” he says. “I keep his framed thank-you letter and picture in my office.” Most recently, Moore fulfilled an order for challenge coins for the golf coach at the University of Houston. “They’ve won 16 national championships, and they're working towards winning their 17th, so they wanted to celebrate their efforts,” says Moore. “We worked together to design a coin with a branded ballmarker inside.”

In appreciation of Moore’s years of service supplying coins and medallions, a company serving in Afghanistan recently presented him with an American flag that flew above one of the Forward Operating Bases during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2007. “When I worked alongside our most highly trained paratroopers and special ops units, their esprit de coeur and enthusiasm was contagious,” says Moore. “I loved their reactions when they received their coins. Being able to provide them with these commemorative pieces has been such a rewarding line of work.”