TokensDirect is the Real Thing When It Comes to Token Manufacturing
A single token is worth more than the value that an FEC ascribes to it. The coin belongs to a once ancient tradition of craftsmanship that has become industrialized and now computerized. Even the spread of debit card technology has not significantly tarnished the status and reliance upon this basic coinage that carries value on game room floors, so token minting remains a steadily hot business. The literally cutting-edge technology behind coin minting today can be seen at TokensDirect, a subsidiary of Osborne Coinage whose metal token production goes back to 1835.
The mantra of TokensDirect is “fast and easy,” which sums up the token manufacturer’s supply-on-demand process but belies the fascinating and intricate nature of the minting process. Gibson Olpp, marketing manager for Osborne Coinage for eight years, described the stages that a TokensDirect product — 150 million, in fact, per year — goes through as it comes into existence.
“We start with strips, which are big coils of metal that are six to eight inches wide and weigh between 1,000 to 2,000 pounds,” Gibson explained. “We punch round coin blanks out of the strip, and each strip gives as many as 130,000 blanks. The blanks are then rimmed. Rimming up-sets the edges, which allows precise control of thickness. Then there are cleaning processes that shine and de-bur them.”
Following this industrial buffing, Gibson said, “they’re fed into a high-speed coining press that mints the blanks at 300 to 700 strokes a minute. Once the press closes, it makes just one token at a time — up to 700 per minute.” This is the stage where a virtually limitless number and variety of stock and customized designs may be struck, Gibson continued, “Once they are minted, we run them through coin counters, the same kind that banks use. That allows us to assure our customers that they’re getting the exact amount that they ordered.”
This high-volume, computer-automated process is the same used by the U.S. Mint’s state-of-the-art equipment. More impressively, a group from TokensDirect contacted the director of the U.S. Treasury and traveled to tour the Denver Mint, where they realized that TokensDirect’s technology was actually performing, during that time, at a higher capacity in speed and output.
Although tokens had been the longtime currency of FECs, Gibson realized that arcade owners wanting to place an order for tokens, much less to customize the minting process, had to face as many stages and often confusing technicalities. Exactly how did alloys, for example, affect pricing? How did one request specifics about engraving on each side of the token? These were infuriating questions to have when, say, an arcade owner was facing an imminent scarcity of tokens and needed a rush shipment. (That scenario is not such a rare occurrence. “Our first ad campaign read ‘Token Emergency?’” Gibson mentioned. “I cannot tell you how many of these orders ship out by air freight.”)
Seizing upon this strategic business initiative, an effort to launch TokensDirect within Osborne Coinage began, with the goal of streamlining the ordering process so that answers would be provided to customers automatically and few thorny issues would arise. The company would also take factory-direct token production to a broader audience, Gibson said, and, in turn, drive down the price.
A glance at their website, www.tokensdirect.com, shows that the company is true to their word.
From a buyer’s most urgent and general needs to specific requests, the company offers different options. An e-commerce site, www.tokensdirectstore.com carries a large variety of stock tokens on the shelf and ready to ship in 1-2 business days. The five-day process, or the “mix and match” offer, has 47 designs available for any front-and-back combination for seven sizes of tokens. That’s over 7,000 unique metal token styles.
The inventory of attractive stock dies grows constantly as customers request and create new dies for special purposes such as a carousel or roller-skating rink. These requests must go through the 10-day process to request new artwork, or a specific logo, and must be ordered through sales.
Regarding customized die requests, Gibson observed, “The requests we get from customers range from ‘I just want to get my initials’ to ‘We’re opening this new property, and it’s by a beach, and I want palm trees and water.’ There is a one time $210 charge, but it is a really easy service. If there is camera-ready artwork or a logo, and all we have to do is lay it out and typeset it, then there is no additional artwork charge.”
As for the materials on which these many options are minted, brass is the primary alloy for the majority customers. Brass is the tried-and-true industry standard with great wear properties and longevity. Some customers, however, prefer their tokens to have a different look, setting them apart from those of other facilities. They most often request nickel plating, which is tarnish resistant, bright and shiny.
Other options include red brass, preferred by those who do not want cross-play between certain machines, and high-security X-mark tokens, which have an optical code that is scanned by a reader installed in the machine. The latter two tokens are mainly utilized by casinos and carwashes, but, as Gibson reflected, it is interesting to have the option for the amusement industry.
The Face on the Coin
The lifeblood of TokensDirect is its staff of 80 employees. The value placed on its people is evident in its education incentive that pays 100% of expenses for related degree work. Diann Haygood received her college degree entirely on TokensDirect’s dime, moving from her starting position over 25 years ago in accounts payable to human resources manager. Another success story is Andre McCaster, who started out buffing coins and, after receiving his college degree, became Order-to-Cash Team Manager, responsible for overseeing orders after placement through the final stage when payment is received. He was promoted to the president of Osborne Coinage two years ago.
The company also puts emphasis on internal cross-training and brings in outside experts to make this happen. “A university professor came,” said Gibson, “to show how our systems can work even more efficiently, to facilitate new projects and encourage decision-making across all levels.”
TokensDirect is headquartered in a roughly 100,000-square-foot facility where all work is completed under one roof. They have a complete tool room, so they can manufacture spare and replacement parts and heat treat engraved steel tools.
Much of the company’s efficiency is further backed by the record of Osborne Coinage, which is best known as manufacturers of casino tokens — first produced in the late 1960s for Las Vegas establishments and in the 1970s for Atlantic City’s — commemorative medallions, doubloons and coin trinkets for commercial giveaways, such as collectible Olympics coins in cereal boxes.
Osborne Coinage is in its third generation of ownership and is well positioned for another 100+ years of business!
For more information, contact TokensDirect, located at 2851 Massachusetts Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45225, by phone at 800/514-6312 or 513/699-6213, fax 513-681-5604, email firstname.lastname@example.org and see www.tokensdirect.com and www.tokensdirectstore.com