One of many military traditions, one in which I’m honored to participate, in my own small way. These are challenge coins I have designed, and continue to design multiple a year. While the tradition of the coins for getting free beer is interesting, I design these to reflect the event they commemorate, so every coin recipient has something special to remember. None of these coins would come to be without the help of Oakcoins, whose staff always does a tremendous job of translating the original art to the coin.
The Flying Passion coin was the first I was asked to design and got produced. While it doesn’t commemorate any particular event, it’s for all our aviators who dedicate so much of their life to flying.
The original art was from a few different pictures from Moose. The first was of Casey Odegard in Dakota Kid giving a thumbs up. On the other side, pictures of those planes shown on the coin. There’s a number of issues when it comes to using pictures on coins. Basically coin designs have to not only be thought of as only vector art, but there’s restrictions on the width of lines as well, as the metal of the coin has to be specific widths to work. This is essentially resolution on a printer.
Image Trace in Adobe Illustrator is one of my favorite means of converting an image to its basic lines. The Poster Edges filter in Adobe Photoshop also works. Either way, I look for which ever gives me the best edge definition and solid colors that best matches the original image and still holds its shape. Next I manually add lines and smooth out colors to make sure there’s no gradients. In the case of the flying passion coin, I didn’t have to worry much about colors, only ensure that the lines matched up.
These two coins are in a series for Texas Flying Legends Museum. First remembering the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and the next for the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle raid. The series had common elements; one side would be a TFLM plane, the other a scene related to the event.
That the Doolittle coin I designed is now in the hands of many incredible people, including Dick Cole, who sat right seat to Jimmy Doolittle on that very raid, is why each of these coins get a tremendous amount of care in the design.
My first introduction to challenge coins wasn’t even from the military directly, it was from fellow aviation photographers who created their own coins and carried on the tradtiaiton their way.
In that same way, this coin was for Moose’s Duxford photographic event in 2017. Each participant got a coin and a handshake, as well as the history of the tradition. It was important that they all learned more than just taking pictures of planes. They had to appreciate the people who make those planes fly.
This final coin I wish to share is the most significant to date. In 2017 I was invited to document the restoration of a C-47, now “Hit or Miss”, with the goal of returning to to Normandy and Europe where it flew in combat during WWII. The full story of filming can be found on NormandyBound.com.
As for this coin, the C-47 side shows the before and after, sinking into the Keystone swamp on the left, and flying over normandy on the right.
The map side shows the northern ferry route, the same that crews flew seventy years ago, and the same route that “Hit or Miss” will fly in May of 2019. A detail that only some pilots pick up on is the formation of the planes in called a fingertip formation. And more importantly, the plane with the flag that appears to be lifting up and out of the formation is in the same position as the plane that would do that manuever in a Missing Man tribute.