Event directors find it incredibly satisfying to watch the faces of participants light up when they get their medals after an event. But, not all event directors understand what it takes to deliver a custom medal to provide that result.
Despite the amount of thought, time, and effort you put into creating a memorable award, if you're unfamiliar with ordering custom medals, you may encounter challenges along the way that cost you time, money, and overall satisfaction.
Luckily, this guide will help familiarize you with the ordering process, avoid common mistakes, and make the process fun and exciting. Utilizing this guide will ultimately contribute to the overall success of your event.
When it comes to custom medals, they represent more than just the event itself—they’re a physical token of achievement that reminds the recipient of their great accomplishment. That’s why you want to create a high-quality, unique award that wows participants and leaves their spirits lifted every time they look at their medal.
Aside from making people feel wonderful, awarding participants with a custom medal has multiple benefits. For example, giving a one-of-a-kind award at your event might help you increase registrations and therefore attract more sponsors.
Once you’ve determined you’re going to reward participants with a custom medal exclusive to your event, where do you start, and how does the ordering process work?
The process of designing, ordering, and receiving custom medals is often streamlined by an experienced medal vendor, so you aren’t expected to know everything and do it all on your own. However, there are a few important details to be aware of and questions you need to consider as you take the first step towards creating your custom award...
More importantly, how soon before your event do you need them for event promotion, staging, and peace of mind? Giving yourself a cushion is always a good idea, especially depending on where your custom medals are being produced and shipped from.
Determining when exactly you need your medals to arrive may also influence the type of custom medal you choose. Each medal type is made of different materials and manufacturing processes, which means each type will give you a unique look, finish, and feel, all of which will impact their cost and turnaround time. Therefore, you'll want to know the main differences between the types of custom medals to better understand how the type can impact your timeline, total cost, finished product, and, most importantly—how your recipients connect with them.
One of the most frequent questions customers ask is, “when is the latest I can place my order?” and our initial response is always, “it depends!”
While it might not be the answer you’re looking for, it’s the most realistic one we can give without knowing a few details that are specific to your situation. Start with your event date; once you share the confirmed date with your medal provider, they can work backward to establish the most accurate timeline for the steps required to complete your order.
If you know you're running short on time, don’t worry! There are great custom medal options that have a quick turnaround time. So don't give up on the idea of getting custom medals for your upcoming event because you think you don't have time; reach out to an expert medal vendor to see what options are available based on your specific situation.
Why you need to know this: the number of medals you’re ordering will ultimately impact the time it takes to get them and how much they’ll cost. As a general rule of thumb, the more medals you buy, the lower the cost per medal.
Sometimes it’s easy to figure out how many custom medals you need for events with a fixed number of divisions, events, and places. Once you know these numbers, you can simply do the math (i.e., divisions x events x places = medal quantity needed).
Doing the math isn’t as simple in other scenarios. For example, in events such as marathons where participant numbers increase up to the registration deadline, it can be nearly impossible to calculate the perfect number by the time you need to place your order. The point is, it’s likely you’ll need to place your order before registration closes to have your medals arrive on time for your event. Further complicating things, event directors may want to factor in projected attrition rates based on historical data (if it’s available).
Usually, it is best to estimate on the high side and have a few medals leftover as opposed to coming up short, which could be costly in both dollars and your reputation.
A custom medal requires custom artwork; if you have a design, great! However, it may need to be adapted for production purposes because designing for print or web is different from designing a medal.
If you don’t already have a design, you’ll need to get one. You can enlist expert designers specializing in custom medals to help you create a design that perfectly promotes your event and makes you proud to hand your participants. Most (the best) medal vendors have in-house designers, so don’t hesitate to ask for help creating your artwork!
You will need to be part of the artwork process and provide direction in terms of logos, themes, features, etc., that you would like to have incorporated into your design. Ultimately you will have to approve the final design before production can start.
Establishing a budget for custom medals, while sometimes difficult, makes the ordering process run more smoothly from start to finish, especially if you have limited funds for your event. However, those new to ordering custom medals might have trouble establishing a budget right off the bat without some guidance... They simply aren’t aware of the key factors that influence the cost of custom medals, such as the medal type, size, design features, and how much time there is before the required in-hands date.
Luckily, with the help of an expert medal vendor, you can confirm the specific details that are likely to influence the price of your medals the most and, from there, develop a more realistic budget based on your specific needs.
Starting the conversation with your vendor will help you establish an ideal price per medal (or at least a price range you’d like to stay within). By working out these important details first, you’ll be able to take advantage of the benefits of setting a budget as you work through the process of designing, approving, and finalizing your custom medal order.
Unless you’re a seasoned pro and have ordered medals several times, it’s common to be unaware of the time and effort required to create (and receive) a custom medal order.
Regardless of the type of event you’re hosting, there are a handful of tips to help you navigate through the ordering process in a way that works best for your specific situation.
Putting thought into these details can help jumpstart the ordering process and help you stay on track with respect to time and budget, even if you don’t know the exact number of medals you’ll ultimately need.
Let’s break down the required steps for placing your order a little more...
There are two things that an event director or customer has to approve before medals can be placed into production:
In addition, any other items associated with your medal order, such as custom neck ribbons or special packaging, or delivery requirements will need to be specified at this time.
You might be surprised to learn that customers frequently approve incorrect information regarding:
These types of mistakes happen more often than you might think. Taking some time to confirm all details before you approve them will save a lot of headaches!
Once you approve your artwork and order acknowledgment, the actual production (manufacturing) of your custom medals begins. As you might expect, standard production time varies depending on medal type, design complexity, and quantity. During certain times of the year, production capacities may come into play. Therefore, ordering as early as possible is always a good idea.
Once they’ve been produced, your medals will be shipped. Shipping time will vary depending on where your medals are coming from, and where they’re going.
Delays that can negatively impact delivery time can be attributed to things such as address corrections, mechanical failures, customs, weather, simple human error, or other supply chain delays. While the best medal vendors will manage shipping and logistics from end to end, some logistics issues that can cause delays are out of their control. This is another good reason to start your order sooner rather than later.
For example, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the worldwide supply chain experienced significant delays and shortages of materials, equipment, and manpower, causing lead times to increase up to 8 weeks longer than the standard.
Once your medals arrive, it's highly recommended you check your shipment ASAP to confirm everything is correct and report any discrepancies.
Not all medal vendors are created equal. Choosing the right one is about much more than just getting the cheapest price. Yet, even people who’ve been organizing events for years often don't know what they should be looking for in a medal vendor.
The best medal and awards vendors:
As you can see, there's much more to ordering custom medals than just picking a design you like online. The best way to ensure you create a unique award that arrives on time is to be familiar with how the process works, begin your order as soon as you can and rely on the help of the experts.
Custom medals are used to honor achievement at various events like athletic competitions, academic achievements, meritorious service, and more.
There are many different types of custom medals to choose from. Each one is made of different materials and manufacturing processes, which means each medal will give you a specific look, finish, and feel, all of which will impact their cost and turnaround time. It’s important to understand the main differences between the types of custom medals so you can be informed before you purchase.
Check out the list below that highlights key characteristics and differences between some of the most common types of custom medals.
Custom Die Cast Medals are one of the most popular types of custom medals. They are very cost-effective for medium to large volume orders and are used to recognize accomplishment at events ranging from small club meets to high-profile marathons and competitions.
Die-casting is a process that occurs when molten material (commonly zinc alloy) is placed under high pressure into a mold cavity or cast.
The cast is created using two hardened steel dies that have the front and back of your desired design cut into them. After the mold cavity is filled and pressure is maintained until the casting solidifies, it’s ejected. Finally, the scrap material is trimmed by a press, leaving you with your finished custom die. Custom Die Cast Medals can be made in unique shapes, a range of sizes, varying thicknesses, and multiple finishes.
They are a great choice for both simple and very complex designs and can utilize the most advanced design features like 3D sculpting, cityscapes & portraits, multiple levels, cut-outs, multi-piece designs, spinners, special features, and amazing colors.
Custom Spin Cast Medals are another popular custom medal option used for events of all kinds. Typically, they are best for small to medium volume orders, such as high school events or club meets.
Spin-casting is another manufacturing method that uses a cast to create the desired medal shape and design, but it’s done differently than Die Cast Medals. Spin Cast Medals are made by pouring molten zinc alloy (or pewter, if desired) into a rubber mold; centrifugal force is then used to fill the design cavity of the mold, and as it continues to spin the material solidifies.
Custom Spin Cast Medals can be made in unique shapes, a range of sizes, and varying thicknesses. They are a great choice for simple designs and can use some advanced design features like enamel color fills, 3D sculpting & multiple levels. Custom Spin Cast Medals can also feature raised and recessed areas, have popular finish options, and hold fine design details.
Custom Die Struck Medals are ideal when only the finest will do. They tend to be a great option for small to medium volume orders that commemorate individuals (e.g., hall of fame, guest of honor, lifetime achievement emblem; a high-level award) rather than finisher medals at high-volume events are more budget-conscious.
Die Struck Medals can be made in unique shapes and use the finest materials available (solid brass, nickel-silver, or copper) to produce precise designs that ensure integrity and exquisite detail.
They’re a great option if you have a logo or design – a well-known trademark, for example – that requires exact duplication. Custom Die Struck Medals have the smoothest surface area than any other cast piece and the ability to utilize many popular design features, such as enamel color fills, 3D sculpting, and cut-outs.
Custom ColorMax Medals are a good option for affordable yet high-quality medals that recognize achievement at events of all kinds.
They’re a great choice if you’re short on time but still want an awesome custom medal, and they tend to be best for small to medium volume orders.
Custom ColorMax Medals are made by utilizing a combination of a Stock Die Cast Medal with UV color printing that allows for a unique design with virtually unlimited colors.
ColorMax Medals have a high perceived value because they are thick and heavy, giving them a premium look and feel. They are available in 2.5” or 3”, round or square shapes, and come in gold, silver, and bronze finishes.
Custom Insert Medals are a top choice for those looking for an economical price point, a fast turnaround, and a highly colorful design.
They are good for essentially any order size, which makes them a great choice for small or large events.
Insert Medals start with a standard Die Cast Medal insert holder. You can choose from a variety of shapes, sizes, and finishes, and some even have design features like spinners and cut-outs.
Your unique artwork is then used to create a 2" color insert to adhere to the holder of your choice to complete your Custom Insert Medal.
While the actual metal portion of these medals is considered "stock," you can still give Insert Medals a personalized look and feel to match the theme of your special event or competition.
Custom Acrylic Medals offer a special look and feel completely different from a cast medal. They have low minimum order requirements, and with large volume orders, the price-point can be quite economical.
Custom Acrylic Medals could be a great option if you’re short on time but still want a high-quality and unique custom medal for your event.
Besides their totally different look and feel, people love Acrylic Medals because they can be made in virtually any size or shape!
They can feature a classic frosted etch, and/or be designed with beautiful color printing.
If you’re looking for a classy and unique way to recognize achievement, Custom Glass Medals might be the perfect option.
They tend to be best for small-volume orders, and in addition to being utilized as award medals, they are often used as ornaments.
Custom Glass Medals come in various shapes and sizes, and some even use unique materials such as Jade and Optical Crystal.
Glass Medals can also feature beautiful, custom designs with laser etching or color printing.
Offering a wood custom medal instead of a metal, glass, or acrylic medal gives your award a truly unique aesthetic. Custom Wood Medals can be the perfect fit for eco-conscious events or outdoor trail runs, or bike races.
Not only are they a great option for those looking to use more sustainable materials to produce their medals, but they can sometimes be a good choice if you’re short on time but still want a special medal.
Custom Wood Medals can be made in a variety of shapes and sizes, which is another feature people tend to love.
They can be made out of several different types of wood, such as red alder, walnut, and bamboo - some can even come with bark on them! Wood Medals can be laser engraved to keep that awesome natural wooden look. Color may be added by color printing or vinyl foils, depending on your design.
If you’re looking for a colorful, fun, and durable medal for your event, a Custom PVC Medal may fit the bill.
PVC Medals are made of a flexible, rubber-like material, making them one of a kind. These distinct medals are a particularly great fit for kids’ events, and they tend to work best with medium to large-volume orders (250+ medals).
Along with the amazing color options, PVC Medals can be made in a variety of custom shapes and sizes.
People also love this type of medal for its ability to produce supremely sculpted custom designs that exude creativity.
At the end of the day, the “best” custom medal choice ultimately depends on your personal preference. How you decide will reflect your specific requirements in terms of medal quantity, design features, budget, and timeline.
Don’t make the mistake of getting hung up on the details of every material and manufacturing process — reach out to the experts. The best medal vendors can help you determine which custom medal is the best fit and then guide you through the rest of the ordering process with ease.
Thinking about ordering custom medals? Whether it's to reward someone for finishing a race, winning a sporting event, or recognizing a special act of service, a quality custom medal is an award the recipient will treasure.
Regardless of who receives it, if you’re planning to order custom medals, you want to be familiar with the time it takes to design, approve, produce, and ship them so you can guarantee on-time delivery.
From start to finish, the amount of time it takes to get your custom medals relies on both parties (you & medal vendor) full cooperation and clear communication. Your medal vendor can help determine deadlines and estimate timeframes for your situation to make sure you’re covering all of your bases. However, you will need to make timely decisions and approve order and design details to keep the process moving.
To give you a better understanding of what plays a role in calculating your timeline, check out this list of key factors to consider:
All of the “stages” and details of a custom medal order are connected, and one detail or choice you make can affect the options or outcomes. For example, your budget can influence the type of custom medal you can afford.
A very common question is, “how long does it take to get a custom medal?” is hard for medal vendors to answer without knowing a few details about your specific wants and requirements… Likewise, it’s challenging for medal vendors to answer without knowing a few details concerning your specific wants and needs. If you were building a house, it’s comparable to asking a contractor how long it will take them to build your house without knowing crucial details such as location, design, materials, deadlines, etc., which significantly impact your timeline.
This is also true of custom medals. However, if you provide an experienced medal vendor with answers to these high-priority questions and considerations, they can give you an accurate answer as to how long it takes to get a custom medal.
This is important because it drives your available options. Some custom medals take longer to produce than others, and the amount of time left before your event date will determine the types that can be designed, approved, produced, and shipped before your event.
As you might guess, there can be a big difference in the amount of time it takes to produce 100 vs. 10,000 custom medals. The total number of medals you need can also impact the type of medal you choose. Your quantity will significantly affect the production time, not to mention the cost. This is a great example of how all of the details of a custom medal order are connected and affect your timeline.
There are many different types of custom medals to choose from. Each is made of different materials and manufacturing processes, and each type will give you a specific look, finish, and feel, all of which will impact their cost and how long it takes to get them. Therefore, it’s important to understand the main differences between some of the most common types of custom medals to be better informed on the best type for you to purchase.
While often challenging, establishing a budget for custom medals from the beginning can save you time and make the ordering process run smoother. Setting a realistic budget before starting your order avoids wasting time:
Bottom line? Your budget influences the type of custom medal you choose, and the design features you select, both of which play a part in calculating a timeline for your order. This is another perfect example showing how all of the order details are connected and how long it takes to get a custom medal.
After selecting the type of custom medal you want, the next big step in completing your order is the artwork design and approval. If you don’t already have custom artwork created, you’ll want to share some design details, such as theme, logos, colors, sponsors, fonts, ribbon, etc., to your medal vendor ASAP so their art department can get the ball rolling on your design.
Design times may vary depending on the number of designs and their complexity, but generally speaking, artwork can be produced in about a week. Keep in mind that any edits to the design will add more time to your overall order timeline with each round of revisions; the quicker you can review and approve the artwork, the shorter your timeline will be.
Once you finalize and approve the artwork/design, you can move to the next step of getting your custom medal order placed.
There are a lot of simple (yet important!) details you’ll need to review and approve before your order is officially submitted to production; this includes pertinent order details like shipping and billing information, event date, in-hand date, and contact information, etc.
Specifics on the medals themselves, like the size, quantity, and finishes, will also require your final seal of approval before your order is submitted for production. Any other items you want to order with your custom medals, such as neck ribbons, special podium awards, trophies, plaques, and promotional items, will need to be specified at this point, as well.
While this step isn’t likely to take up a ton of time, it’s still an important part of the ordering process that should be considered when calculating how long it takes to get a custom medal.
Once your artwork and order have been finalized and approved, your custom medals' actual production (manufacturing) begins. As you might expect, standard production times vary depending on the custom medal type, quantity, and design complexity.
The manufacturing of cast medals usually takes 3-4 weeks. Specialty medals, like wood and acrylic, typically take 1-2 weeks to produce, and ColorMax Medals can normally be produced in about one week. Also, note that requiring a pre-production sample will add additional time to the overall production process.
The production stage significantly impacts how long it takes to get a custom medal. Depending on circumstances, such as material availability, capacity constraints, and quality control issues, the standard production times are not always exact.
After your custom medals have been produced, they’ll be shipped. Shipping times will vary depending on where they’re coming from and where they’re going. Medal types made overseas (Die Cast, Die Struck, PVC, etc.) require additional transit time (up to 6-8 weeks longer if ocean freight is utilized). Logistics and shipping must be factored in for any type of custom medal to calculate the total time required to get your medals.
If you really need an answer to the burning question, “how long does it take to get a custom medal,” the answer is - it depends!
Multiple factors impact how long it takes to get a custom medal order. Every scenario is unique, so until you confirm a few key details, it’s a super tricky question to answer properly.
If you’re looking for more specific info, you can check out this article that dives deeper into detail on the timeline of each medal type. But, again, an experienced and reliable medal vendor can provide a realistic timeline based on your specific wants and needs.
The top question we get from customers is, “how much does a custom medal cost?”. Because so many factors impact cost, it’s hard to answer that question without knowing some of your specific desires and requirements.
While you can get a general breakdown of custom medal pricing from a catalog or website, prices can and will vary based on the design and your circumstances.
Take a look at these seven factors that contribute to the price of custom medals, along with a few simple ways you can minimize the cost.
Many types of custom medals differ in price because of the manufacturing processes, materials, where they’re produced, etc. Usually, a quick chat with your medal vendor of choice will help you understand the main differences between each type to confidently pick the best one for your situation (budget, event theme, deadline, and any other requirements).
How many do you need? Generally, the more you buy, the less they cost per unit when it comes to custom medals.
Depending on the nature of your event, it can be tough to know exactly how many medals you’ll need, but waiting to start your order until your registrations are closed could really cost you. Rush shipping charges instantly increase “how much it costs” to get your medals if you want them delivered on time. Thankfully there are ways you can (and should!) get the ball rolling on your custom medal order ASAP even if you don’t know the exact quantity you need.
The larger and thicker a custom medal is, the more material is required to produce it, and thus the higher the cost. Also, keep in mind that the heavier your medal is, the more it will cost to ship.
There are many different medals finishes (gold, silver, bronze, each available in antique, shiny, or matte), and you can even get a custom color powder coat finish. Each of these finishes comes with its own price tag.
The more design features used in your design, such as enamel color fills, 3D Sculpting, moving parts, etc., the higher the cost of your custom medal.
Most people accessorize their medals with custom neck ribbons, and some will add engraving or even presentation boxes. Each accessory adds to the overall cost of your order.
The time for production, importing (if necessary), and shipping to your location can play a big part in your total cost.
With all of the available options you can use to create your design, from the specific medal type to the custom shape, size, weight, special features, etc. you choose, you are bound to impress participants with a truly unique award.
With that in mind, it’s important to understand how you can get an amazing, high-quality custom medal that’s perfect for your event without breaking the bank. Here are some of the top tips to minimize the price of your custom medal:
As you can see, many factors impact the cost of a custom medal. At the end of the day, no medal vendor can give you a good answer to the question, “how much does a custom medal cost,” without knowing your specific requirements.
The best way to determine your medal cost is to talk with an expert medal vendor about your wants and needs and request a quote. The more specific details you can give, the more accurate your quote will be.
When it comes to custom medals, figuring out exactly how many you need to order (and when you need to order them by) can feel a bit stressful, especially depending on the type of event you’re hosting. For example, events with a fixed number of award winners versus events awarding medals to all participants…
While it’s easy to calculate how many you’ll need for the event with a fixed number of winners, it can be more difficult to determine how many you’ll ultimately need for mass-participation events, such as a road race, where registrations continue to increase until the registration deadline, or in some instances even the day of the event.
Regardless of the type of event, there are many benefits to getting your custom medal order started ASAP—even if you’re not sure of the total number of medals, you’ll ultimately need. Waiting too long to determine the perfect number could cost you in more ways than one.
Luckily, there are a handful of tips to help you figure out how many medals to order and how to go about the ordering process to work best for your specific situation.
To give you a more in-depth example of how the type of event plays a huge part in your process of determining “how many” medals to order, let’s compare these very different scenarios:
For example, if a wrestling meet has 14 weight classes, and the top 4 places in each weight class will receive an award, the wrestling coach will need to order 56 custom medals. As you can see, it’s pretty easy to calculate how many medals you need for this type of event.
The race director planning a marathon with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of potential participants will have a tougher time estimating the total number of medals to order. Events with a long, open registration window normally have registrations increase over time. Since the race director needs to place their order well before registration closes to allow enough time for the medals to be designed, approved, produced, imported, and delivered in time for the event, they should start the ordering process months in advance.
There are many advantages to starting your order early. In addition, you can always place an add-on order and get it faster because you already have your custom design and die created, which saves time.
It’s not unusual for event directors to want to wait until their registration closes to get an exact number of medals to order. However, they underestimate the time it takes to design, order, produce and receive custom medals, which typically doesn’t allow waiting until registration closes to place their order. Because of this, it makes it hard to determine exactly how many to order.
However, waiting could cost you more than one, such as paying more to get them there or not having them there for your event. This could damage your event’s reputation and/or send you way over your budget. Not starting early enough is one of the most common ordering mistakes when it comes to custom medals, but thankfully, you can easily avoid it.
It might sound strange, but it could end up costing you less to order more medals than you ultimately hand out. Race directors are often better off buying more than they think they need in their initial order than waiting until the last minute to order. Because they can take advantage of the much cheaper freight method (ocean) with their initial order, they might actually spend less by ordering a few extra medals in the initial order than paying for a small, add-on order shipped via air freight.
If you end up with extra custom medals, they can potentially be repurposed for another event, depending on your design. For example, you can add a new neck ribbon with the current design or use an engraved plate with updated event dates, info, and other important details.
Alternatively, you can recycle leftover medals. The most efficient and environmentally friendly option may be to contact a local recycler. This will help decrease your carbon footprint, but it will save you the cost of shipping your medals to a recycling company. In addition, your local recycler may pick up your medals, or you can drop them off...they may even pay you a per pound rate!
As you can see, sometimes it’s easy to figure out how many custom medals to order simply by doing the math...other times, it can be nearly impossible to know what the perfect number is; the type of event you’re hosting influences your ability to know exactly how many medals to order.
Whether you know exactly how many medals you need for your event or you make your best estimate for an initial order, it’s never too early to start the ordering process. The point is, don’t underestimate the timeline and cut your order too close because you think waiting for a more accurate registration count is the best course of action; rely on the help of an expert medal vendor and use the tips above to decide how many custom medals you need to order, and when exactly you should order them to ensure they arrive on time for your event.
As you can see, several factors impact how smooth your ordering process goes and how great the design of your custom medal turns out. Of course, every scenario is unique, but the ordering process and necessary details you want to pay close attention to are not.
Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of the ordering process. To learn even more, check out our FREE Guides.
*The COVID-19 Pandemic has created worldwide supply chain delays and shortages of material, equipment, and manpower. As a result, lead times may reach up to 8 weeks longer than the standard timeframes.
5 tips to make ordering custom medals a breeze.
In this Guide, you'll discover:
Make your event stand out with these top 5 medal design tips.
In this Guide, you'll discover: