A friend asked me the other day “You’ve got metal coins, right?” and I tentatively said “suuuuurrrreeee?”. While a lot of people have stopped buying metal coins or settle on a single set they use for everything, I still enjoy having dedicated ones for games I really like. There is an art to metal coins with sometimes strange or unusual design choices. Some are very thin, some thick, some stained to get rid of their shiny new look, and so on and so forth.
I thought I’d be a fun little project to photograph all the metal coins I currently own and talk about what makes a good metal coin, at least in my book. I’ve tried to photograph them with denominations in separate stacks so that it is obvious how many of which denomination are in a set and what size/thickness they are. You might need to zoom into the images for details though.
Let’s start with the first ever metal coins I bought. At the time, I had been on a bit of a binge playing through all of the Maracaibo story solo and thought hey, it might be nice to have one set of metal coins in the collection to use with all my games. While Maracaibo has left my collection a while ago (I was too disappointed with its Uprising expansion), I still like to use these coins for any game that doesn’t have dedicated ones like Troyes or Concordia. They were actually hard to get because apparently there was only a limited run offered when the game came out and they didn’t come with Maracaibo itself (remember Maracaibo was way before Kickstarter). So I had to search the secondary market and was lucky enough to find a set after a couple of weeks. Note: There were two versions of the coins, one has a sub-optimal distribution of the denominations as far as I can remember, the image shows the better one.
There are a number of good design aspects: They have a pirate/Incan (?) styling that fit the game they are meant for but it’s subtle enough not to bother when playing in other contexts. The colour of the different denominations can be clearly distinguished, even from afar. There are enough of each denomination (though a bit on the short end for the 1s and 2s), and have a substantial thickness to them. Downsides are ones has to change a lot if playing with more than two players and there are no tens or higher.
Suburbia Collectors Edition
To give a counter-example of what I consider bad metal coins, here are the ones that come with the Suburbia Collector’s Edition. I got them “by accident” because I had a phase where I downsized my collection quite substantially and rather wanted to invest in a few games I really love. Suburbia is one of my all-time favourite games, so I picked up a second hand Suburbia Super Collector’s Edition (the super stands for the ridiculous, total unnecessary 20 player colours in the box instead of the normal five).
Why I don’t like these is that they feel cheap and not like an upgrade. They are rather thin and their center feels like stamped out of a very thin sheet of metal. To hide this a bit, the ridges at the circumference are huge. As a consequence, the coins feel unusually light. Also minus point for quite small diameter.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig Collectors Edition
Bezier Games has improved things a lot in the spiritual successor to the Suburbia CE, the Castles of Mad King Ludwig CE. While they have a substantial thickness and the relief shows a nice design, the diameter is still rather small which gives them more of a button-like appearance. However, since these coins have to be stacked on top of the rooms in the market, it’s actually a usability improvement to have this odd shape. So they work great, but I’d never use them for anything except Castles of Mad King Ludwig.
Pax Pamir Second Edition & John Company Second Edition
Two nice examples of coins are from publisher Wehrlegig. The Pax Pamir Second Edition coins feel highly thematic but unfortunately only come in one denomination. So great coins to have, but don’t plan to use them on anything except Pax Pamir. A nice feature is that they come with their own bag, something that most metal coins unfortunately do not.
The metal coins of John Company Second Edition on the other hand are really nice, come in 1/2/5/10 denominations, they come with enough of each denomination, have a great artwork on them and would be an ideal set of universal metal coins except for three aspects: one, they are quite specific to the theme, two, they are a tiny bit to thin for my taste, and three, the 5 and 10 are very hard to distinguish (keep in mind the image was taken in very good lighting). They have almost the same colour and from a distance, it would be tricky to distinguish them. Still, I wouldn’t want to play JC2E without them, I really like them. It’s so satisfying when you have to pay something from your hard earned personal coffers and hear that “cling” sound of saying goodbye to your money.
Another example of very specific coins are the ones for Rococo Deluxe. They have a nice design and the odd colour scheme of Rococo with the blue 5er coins. Again, a bit too thin, but great if you really like your Rococo. The game comes with such nice components for yarn and broach, playing with cardboard coins just didn’t feel right.
Another set I wouldn’t want to miss are the ones for Sleeping Gods. Their odd shape immediately throws you into the alternate world of the Wandering Sea. They have a nice colour, good thickness, very thematic. It’s almost a shame they don’t really fit any other game.
Near And Far
Same publisher (Red Raven), earlier game. I only got them by accident as the second hand copy I bought happened to have them included. It’s nice to have them, but I don’t consider them as essential for the experience as the Sleeping God ones. Unfortunately they also have this thin sheet of metal feel.
Hamlet: The Village Building Game
It might sound a bit harsh, but one could say the metal coins are the thing I liked best about Hamlet. They are quite nice, have good thickness, the design is cute. They are a stark contrast to the 3D church where the glue on the cardboard pieces won’t stick and therefore the elements always are close to tipping over. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the game, so these will go soon.
For use as a universal coin, they lack higher denominations and there are simply not enough of them for most games.
Foundations of Rome
This is another example of what not to do when designing metal coins. Bad colour separation, the ones only look different because they have a weird coating on them which makes them look really odd and the 3s really shiny. Thickness if borderline okay, but nothing to phone home about. The denominations also render them useless for most other games. I really like Foundations of Rome, but the metal coins are a real let down and do not match the quality of the miniatures or other components. I still haven’t found good universal coins that work with Foundations of Rome unfortunately.
This is one of only two Kickstarter games in my collection that I’ve actually backed myself instead of picking up a copy on the second hand market. I think the coins are a fair-to-good example. Good colour separation, denominations of one and five work for the game, there are enough of them. Thickness is nice. I don’t really like the relief design, it looks a bit crude but I guess that’s by design. They are an unessential (wouldn’t miss them if I didn’t have them) nice-to-have for the game itself, but I wouldn’t use them for another game due to the design.
Iron Clays – Brass Lancashire & Brass Birmingham
While not strictly metal coins, poker chips are a favourite among many. As far as I know, Iron Clays came out as part of the Brass Lancashire and Birmingham crowdfunding campaign but are now used for many other games. They come in various packages and denominations, from small sets to huge boxes with drawers, I kid you not. Note that while the Deluxe Editions of the two Brasses came with a set of Iron Clays, those actually are missing a denomination compared to the shown Iron Clays 100.
Iron Clays photograph exception well, but when I first had them in my hand I was actually a bit disappointed by the plastic looking colours. The red 10er are the only ones where I really like the colour. However, the pattern design has grown on me and I haven’t found any other poker chips that I would rather use for board games.
I like to use Iron Clays for the two Brasses, but they also worked well for Carnegie, Arkwright, Lisboa, and a number of other games. However, I don’t use them as universally as some other people. They have a certain aesthetic and for games that thematically deal with coins instead of generic money, I still prefer metal coins.
Those That Got Away
There are a number of metal coins I didn’t buy but handled or had to let go when I sold the game they belonged to. So here is the lightning round:
- Now or Never: Cool coins, unusual and problematic colour scheme, nice thickness. Work great for Now or Never but not universally. I kind of miss them though I have no use for them.
- Nanty Narking (Obsession): Didn’t like Obsession that much so they had to go as well. Worked well for it, but they are thematically specific to that area and only two denominations. So the only reason to get them is to use them for Obsession.
- Lisboa: they are good and might serve as universal coins, but some of the coins have that strange patina that Foundations of Rome also uses. The others are so damn shiny that it seriously would distract me. Thickness is okay but I’d like them a bit thicker.
The Ones I Have Heard Good Things About
For completeness sake, here are some that seem to be great and always showed up when I looked for recommendations. But I haven’t had a chance to play with yet:
- Scythe: look cool, but the square hole in the one and the art style are not my cup of tea. A lot of people rave about them though.
- Viticulture: these are also a strong candidate for universal coins. I have heard a lot of good things about them but had no reason to buy them yet.
So there you have it, all the metal coins I had experience with so far. It’s great to see the evolution of metal coins and that more and more good ones seem to come out. So which ones are your favourite? Do you have recommendations for a universal set if someone wants to buy just a single set for all games? What are you looking for in a metal coin set?