An insert medal without a sticker, or 'insert'.The sticker, or “insert”, is placed in the round recessed area. 

You've probably come across several types of medals in your search for the perfect award. Some of these, such as traditional metal medals, you've seen your whole life. Others, well, you haven't.

The type that raises the most eyebrows are custom insert medals. While insert medals have been around for some time, they've only recently jumped in popularity, popping up at big-name events like Surf Life Saving Australia's interstate surf boat games. But the mystery around them continues.

You might wonder what the ‘insert’ part of their name means or whether you should jump on their bandwagon, too. That's where we at Badges And Medals can help. We've sold thousands of custom insert medals in the past five decades, making us the experts in the what's and how's of these lesser-known awards.

In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know, including:

Or just click on a link above to skip directly to your question!

What is an insert medal?

Three examples of insert medals, made by Badges And Medals for customers.Insert medals are made up of two components: a sticker and a medal. 

An insert medal is a medal that features a sticker, or as we like to call it, an "insert", fixed to one side. But don't let the term 'sticker' throw you off! Custom insert medals are just as sturdy as their traditional all-metal counterparts. 

The stickers are made from high-quality vinyl - a material more robust and water-resistant than paper, which is what most normal stickers are made from. Printed in the centre of the sticker is your design, logo or text. The vinyl is then covered with a plastic dome to shield it from everyday wear and tear. 

Once the dome has dried, the stickers are stuck onto medals that are made using a mould, or what we in the industry like to call "die-cast medals". These medals are designed with the stickers in mind - they have a recessed area built onto one side where the sticker goes. This area is surrounded by something decorative, like an olive wreath or stars. 

The medals are often available in gold, silver and bronze but can also come in other colours, such as black, depending on your manufacturer.

Insert medals, as a concept, have been around for several decades, likely since the mid-20th century, though their invention cannot be pinned to a specific date or person. The practice of inserting a custom sticker onto a medal likely developed as just another way to add a personalised and unique touch to people's awards, which evolved as medal-making techniques and materials advanced to include a protective dome.

Do insert medals come with ribbons?

Insert medals often come with “free” one- or two-toned ribbons and you can pick the colour (or colours!) that suits your event. Some manufacturers give you the option to customise the ribbons so that they better complement the medal or the theme of the event, but this is considered extra.

What do you need to create an insert medal?

Absolutely nothing! However, it does help the medal designer if you have a design in mind for the sticker or, failing that, a high-resolution version of your event's logo, plus samples of its colours.

If you'd like to research designs, but don't know where to start, read out article, 'Top 5 Places To Find Medal Design Ideas.'

How long does it take to make an insert medal?

A small batch of custom insert medals can be ready for shipping a week after you finalise your sticker design, so long as you're happy to have a one- or two-toned ribbon. Larger orders take longer, with 150 insert medals taking most medal manufacturers about two weeks to finish.

A graphic showing how long it takes to make insert medals, with the answering being 8 to 17 days.Insert medals are one of the fastest medals to make, up until the 150-medal mark. Past that point, it's faster to make wooden medals.

How much does an insert medal cost?

There are a few factors that play into the cost of an insert medal:

  • The number of medals you order
    Big orders have a lower cost-per-medal than smaller orders. This is because larger orders allow medal manufacturers to optimise their medal-making process, use their resources more efficiently, and reduce overhead costs such as rent and salaries. The manufacturers, in turn, pass these savings onto you. It’s just like buying in bulk at the grocery store!

  • The size of the medal
    Typically, custom insert medals come in two sizes: 50mm wide and 70mm wide. There isn't a reason why they come in these particular sizes - it's just the unspoken industry standard. A 50mm wide insert medal costs less than its 70mm sister because it comes from fewer materials.

  • The level of customisation
    A lot of customisation is included in the medal design process. Going beyond that costs more.

It’s also important to note that suppliers often charge a setup fee for each insert medal order to cover the costs of using their machines. At Badges And Medals, for example, the setup fee is US$26.

Let's say, for example, that you want to buy 100 insert medals with a plain ribbon and no add-ons.

This would set you back US$275, or US$2.75 a medal if you wanted 50mm medals. If you would prefer the larger 70mm insert medals, then this would cost you US$385 or US$3.85 a medal. This is before adding the price of shipping the medals to your door and a goods and services tax. 

Can you customise an insert medal?

Every insert medal can be considered "custom" in a way, as the choices you make during the design process will always result in a one-of-a-kind product. These choices include the medals:

  • Size. Do you want a 50mm medal or a 70mm medal?
  • Colour. Are the medals gold, silver, or bronze, or a mix?
  • Finish. Do you pick an antique finish for a 'rustic' look or a shiny finish for a 'flashy' look?
  • Medal decorations. What will look better around your sticker? A wreath? Or something else?
  • Ribbon colour. How many colours do you want on your ribbon? What colour/s should they be?
  • Sticker design. What design best represents your event? What text or colours do you pick?

There are two additional ways to customise your insert medals, but these are not part of the standard design process, so check with your medal manufacturer to see if they're available for you:


Personalised engraving

Custom ribbons

What is it?

Words can be engraved onto the back of a medal using a laser. This creates a unique connection between the recipient and their medal. You can engrave whatever you fancy, with the most common choice being the recipient's name or their event.

Custom ribbons are ribbons designed to suit your event. They make your medals more unique and memorable.

How long does it take?

Engraving each medal will push your order's finish date out by 1 to 3 days.

You might have to wait one to two weeks longer for custom ribbons.

What does it cost?

Most manufacturers will charge a setup fee to cover the cost of preparing their laser engraver. At Badges And Medals, this is US$8.40. You will then be charged for each medal engraved - often US$1.80 and US$2.40 a medal.

Custom ribbons often cost the same as plain ribbons. However, they come with a setup fee because manufacturers need to set up a machine. At Badges And Medals, this setup fee is US$23.

What are the advantages of insert medals?

  • They're durable.
  • They're quicker than other medals to make (to a point). Medal manufacturers can pump out insert medals faster than metal or wooden medals up until the 150-medal mark. Beyond that point, wooden medals are the fastest to make because they're the easiest to mass produce.
  • They're budget-friendly (to a point). Insert medals are the cheapest option for orders of less than 150 medals. After that, metal medals become cheaper as they're faster to produce.

What are the disadvantages of insert medals?

  • They're less durable than metal or wooden medals long-term.
  • They're not the fastest or cheapest option for orders of 150 medals or above.
  • They're made from mixed materials (plastic and metal), so are more difficult to recycle.
  • They come with fewer customisation options than metal or wooden medals.
  • They don't offer the same 'wow’ factor as their metal or wooden counterparts.

How do insert medals compare to other medals?

At Badges And Medals, we know that choosing the right medal can make a world of difference for your event. We've sold more than a million medals in the past five decades and have witnessed first-hand the transformative impact both they have on the event's success and the recipients' experience.

By learning what insert medals are and why they might be so popular, you can now make an informed decision on whether they're the right fit for you.

If you're still on the fence, read this handy article on how insert medals stack up against their metal and wooden counterparts: 'Which Medal Is Best? Metal Medals Vs Wooden Medals Vs Insert Medals'.

Read: Metal Medals Vs Wooden Medals Vs Insert Medals