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Friday, October 7, 2016

Gamer Bling: Mythical Coins for your RPG Campaigns

Gamer Bling is a series of posts where I share and review amazing products, services, and accessories for tabletop role-playing games that really take gaming to the next level. In this article, I will actually be covering products from three different companies: coins by Campaign Coins, coins by Fantasy Coin LLC, and coins by Rare Elements Foundry.

Campaign Coins

Photo of Campaign Coins from the
official website gallery.
I will begin with Campaign Coins, as they were the first set of RPG-related coins I ever owned. My original collection of Campaign Coins was gifted to me by a fellow gamer and co-worker (sometime in 2007), and consisted of two of their original "starter sets". Each of these original sets consisted of 121 coins and cost around $70. These particular starter sets are no longer available, but several new "starter sets" (tavern, market, dungeon, and castle) are available via the website store.

Campaign Coins are made from zinc alloy and have an average price point of $0.89 US - $1.25 US (depending on coin size). They also offer trade bars and accessories.

One neat feature of Campaign Coins is that in addition to the beautiful fantasy-themed 3D artwork depicted on each denomination, the coins are actually enumerated to a specific value: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000; which makes them very easy to use for fantasy commerce. They also come in four different finishes: copper, silver, gold, and gleaming platinum. 

Image of the gold d20 coin from
the Campaign Coins website store.
In the years since I procured my particular starter sets of coins, Campaign Coins has gone on to create a plethora of new styles and even had a wildly successful Kickstarter (which included 500, 5,000, and 10,000 enumerated sets).

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the awesome d20 "Crits or Fails" coins (copper, silver, and gold) -- I managed to snag all three from GenCon 2014 when they were first released, and they make a fantastic d2 to any dice collection.

Campaign Coins is operated by King of the Castle Games (Andre Bishop [founder], Mark Morrison, Lee Smith, and other team members) from Melbourne, Australia. They have been making fantasy coins since 2007. You can find out more about Campaign Coins via their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.

Fantasy Coin LLC

Photograph of some of the various
coin themes from my own collection of
Fantasy Coins by Fantasy Coin LLC.
Next let's take a look at Fantasy Coins. These coins are very similar to Campaign Coins in make and design, but Fantasy Coin LLC offer a much wider variety of themes. The coins are devoid of enumeration or other specific identifying markings, which for many purposes (outside of in-game accounting) is more practical. The largest portion of my gaming coins collection consists of Fantasy Coins, and they make an appearance at every single one of my weekly game sessions; several others in my gaming groups have also adopted them for the games that they run as well.

Fantasy Coins available themes include: elementals (fire, earth, air, water and magic), fantasy cultures (dwarf, elf, goblin, dragon, and fantasy kingdom), historical cultures (feudal Japan, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, barbarian, and valkyrie), and over a dozen other themes including steampunk, science fiction, pirate, and even Cthulhu.

Yellow Hex Gem photo from the
Fantasy Coin LLC web store.
In addition to their standard coins Fantasy Coin LLC also offers a wide selection of accessories (including amazing fantasy treasure chests), heavy bars (think gold bricks), 24K Gold and Pure Silver plated coins, and even a selection of acrylic colored gemstones that remind me quite a bit of the "rupee" from the Legend of Zelda series.

I first became introduced to Fantasy Coins via their primary Kickstarter campaign in April 2014 where I picked up over 300 coins and several of the bars for around $120. In all honesty, at first I thought them to be the same company who had manufactured Campaign Coins when I backed, but was pleasantly surprised to discover they were an entirely new company broadening the market for fantasy-themed coinage. I mention this to point out that coins from both companies mingle well in the same collection. I have since invested in several of their other Kickstarter campaigns, including  snagging one of these limited custom fantasy treasure chests with locks and keys.

Fantasy Coins are struck from quality zinc and then electroplated with colored nickel. Each coin is is antiquated with a finish that simulates actual aging, which lends the entire series of coins a very authentic appearance for any fantasy setting. Fantasy Coins have an average price point of $0.57 US per coin, making them the most affordable option of the three companies reviewed in this article.

Fantasy Coin LLC is operates out of Woodbridge, Virgina and was founded in 2012 by the company CEO, Tim West. You can find out more about the company and Fantasy Coins via their website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Rare Elements Foundry

A photograph of my coins from
Rare Elements Foundry which I
obtained as a backer of their
Kickstarter Project.

Last, but certainly not least, let's take a look at the magnificent coins offered by Rare Elements Foundry. These are absolutely the crème de la crème of the mythological coins I'm reviewing in this article, and by far the most authentic.

Rare Elements Foundry coins are actually minted using the same materials and process as US currency via Osborne Coinage  who are America's oldest private mint and have been minting coins since 1835.

While all the coins I've reviewed here have the real heft to them that coins should provide, only Rare Elements Foundry coins offer that true *ring* when the coins clink together. The minting process used also offers a very fine detail to the artwork displayed on each coin that all the other mythological coins fail to achieve. It's a notable difference that can be seen, felt and heard when using the coins.

Photo of the "Fire Dragon" 100
Denomination coins from the
Rare Elements Foundry website store.
However, a notably more expensive price-tag comes along with this level of quality. With an average price point of $3.50 per coin, Rare Elements Foundry is three-to-six times as expensive as coins offered by Campaign Coins and Fantasy Coin LLC. That can add up quickly for the budget-conscious gamer.

I discovered Rare Elements Foundry via their 2014 Kickstarter campaign where I scored a set of 60 coins and one solid .999 Fine Silver 39mm coin (about an ounce of silver) for $120. I've been a huge fan ever since.

While Fantasy Coins maybe my favorite to use at the game table, Rare Elements Foundry coins are my favorite overall. I adore these coins -- so much so that I shy way from exposing them to wear at the game table. These are even nice enough that I included coins in all of my "Gruss vom Krampus!" cards that I sent to friends and family last year.

Rare Elements Foundry also offers very nice character token sets as well as "Re' of Light" which is a D20 OGL adventure setting that makes use of their coins as a part of the storytelling mechanic.

Rare Elements Foundry is run by Miya Sohoza and operates out of Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find out more about Rare Elements Foundry via their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Pros -

Using coins as an interactive prop for tabletop RPGs can add a level of immersion to any fantasy setting, and there's just something about grabbing a fist-full of hefty metal coins and hearing your wealth clink about that surpasses simply jotting down a number on a character record sheet.   

The Cons -

Budget. In most cases using coins for your game is going to be entirely fluff, and though the average price points vary, none of them are especially inexpensive. They don't really add anything new to the mechanics or procedure, and at higher levels characters can amass enough wealth that it becomes difficult to use coins to assume a placeholder for treasure.

Product Ratings -

In conclusion, I rate all three company's coins as 4.5 / 5 Bling! products, but for very different reasons detailed below:

Campaign Coins -- Perfect for players who want to track their wealth with a physical representation. The enumerated denominations on these coins literally add some weight to the decisions of how to spend a character's wealth. However, at higher levels it can be difficult to maintain enough coinage to account for everyone's money.

Fantasy Coin LLC -- Perfect for players on a budget, you get the most bang for your buck here, though the lack of any denomination can render them less than useful as a wealth-tracking utility, as tokens or icons they are ideal (I hand them out as rewards to players who use them as hero/luck points).

Rare Elements Foundry -- If you are a collector of things shiny and beautiful, these coins are absolutely perfect for you. These are truly keepsake quality. If budget isn't a concern and nothing but the best will do for your players, then these are the coins for your game. Or, do as I've done: just get some for yourself and hoard them like a greedy gamer troll.

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