Evolution of the Lackey geocoin

In the early years of Geocaching HQ (when it was known as Groundspeak), Lackeys came up with a gift idea for visitors to the Seattle office: a geocoin featuring digital icons of everyone who worked there. The Lackey geocoin was born.

Now 16 years later, the Lackey coin has reached a new peak in ingenuity with a 3D ammo can design dreamed up by HQ’s Roxxy that will send collectors’ hearts fluttering. Look for the new coin at Shop Geocaching later this month!

Roxxy has designed 11 of the 15 Lackey coins. We checked in with her to learn more about her process for approaching this exciting project each year.

What was the first Lackey coin that you designed?

It was our 2011 “Vitruvian Signal” coin, and I’ve worked on them every year since. At first, I thought it was because I was really good at geocoin designs. But now I suspect it’s also because nobody else wants to do the math (I’m joking)!

Describe your process for designing each coin.

The process tends to change every year, but it starts with the Lackeys. Specifically, I need to count how many Lackeys we’re including on the coin. Once I know that number, I know how big the coin must be and if we need to join two or more coins together to have enough space.

After I determine our size constraints, it becomes a matter of trying different themes and motifs, testing to see what fits best. Jointed coins lend themselves to becoming pocket watches, compasses, books, and maps. I take design inspiration where I can find it. Sometimes we do something that’s more grounded and relates specifically to the Lackeys and our ideals here at HQ. Other times it’s something fantastic that just looks cool. When the artwork is complete, it’s reviewed and approved by certain Lackeys (co-founders Bryan and Jeremy among them) before being finalized.

The hard part is going back and laying out all of the Lackey pixel icons and names. There’s no easy way to do it, but I’m getting faster at doing it the hard way. Each icon and name must be placed by hand according to a grid that I draft from scratch every year—it changes for every coin. Whoever says math doesn’t factor into art should see some of my notes when it’s time to determine the surface area of a circle in square millimeters, broken down into 80 or more equal sections!

Once I’ve gotten the shape, design, size, and icons into place, the rest is just like any other geocoin design. I go through our sample books and pick out codes for the enamel colors and metal finishes, add the measurements for the factory to reference, and the files are sent off to the mint.

And then I have a very, very big cup of tea.

What can you tell us about the 2021 Lackey coin design?

After we saw how much the community loved the 20th anniversary bucket and the 2020 dumpster fire trackables (do you still call them geocoins when they’re no longer coin-shaped?), our merchandise team suggested I try for a 3D sculpted shape instead of a flat coin.

The obvious answer was to make a trackable Lackey cache! Since this was our first attempt at a sculpted item with a printed exterior, we didn’t want to overdo it, so we kept things relatively simple for the sake of clarity. It’s nice to work with a rectangular layout, because I can fit a lot of icons in line without compromising on readability, and no Lackey icons must be cropped or adjusted too much.

I would’ve loved to have put all of the Lackeys on the inside, and have the entire thing unfold into a flat piece so you could see everyone, but I know for a fact we wouldn’t have had the resources to design a 6-piece hinged geocoin. (Maybe some other time…)

Are there special challenges when designing the Lackey coin relative to other coin designs?

The most constant challenge comes from nearly every Lackey coin being one-sided, compared to what we’d consider to be a regular geocoin. Since one side is reserved for printing the Lackey icons, the other side must include everything else: artwork, any extra text we might want to add, and even the tracking information (if we don’t engrave it on the outside edge of the coin). It means I have to fit as much as possible in half the space available, and at the same time I want to keep a reasonable size without sacrificing any detail.

This is why I’ve used hinged coins for a few years now. With a hinged coin we get two inside faces and two outside faces to work with, which gives me twice as much space to fit our growing number of Lackeys and any design elements. Also, it keeps the overall geocoin small enough that it can still fit comfortably on a geocon stand in someone’s collection.

The 2020 Lackey coin is what happened when I was allowed to fit three geocoins’ worth of information onto one coin, and it was a special occasion. I don’t think I’ll be able to get away with that again until 2030.

Could you share any “Easter eggs” contained in the coins?

I tend to hide more Easter eggs in souvenirs than I do in geocoins. However, the 2015 Lackey coin stands out in that regard. It was the first year I attempted a circular geocoin with a hinge, and the pocket watch theme was too good to pass up. But I’m also a Doctor Who fan, and I know there are a lot of geocachers who also love The Doctor, or they like a good puzzle.

I was inspired by the time-travelling adventurer to hide a message written in Gallifreyan (the language of The Doctor’s home planet). The arrangement of circles and lines on each side of the coin are two different messages, written in the fan-made Circular Gallifreyan alphabet designed by Loren Sherman (and used with permission).

While not quite as elaborate, the 2019 Lackey coin is a functional (if not to-scale) map of the Seattle neighborhood where HQ is located, along with some points of interest, particularly if you like GeoTours.

Do you have a favorite Lackey coin?

I do not! I know that isn’t a very satisfying answer, but it’s true.

Every coin I’ve worked on has been really fun (and also frustrating) to figure out, and because of that they’ve all been very rewarding. Should I hide an alien cypher in the artwork? Absolutely! Should the map-themed geocoin fold up like an actual map? Let’s see if we can make it happen! There’s an effort to ensure it’s something that can represent the Lackeys here at Geocaching HQ and the love we feel for the game, and we want it to be something the community will also enjoy. Rectangular or rounded, hinged or just big, the Lackey coin is a project I look forward to every year.

I should probably start thinking about what we’re going to do for 2022!

Hear more about the Lackey geocoin from Roxxy in this episode of the Inside Geocaching HQ podcast.

The 2021 Lackey geocoin is available later this month at Shop Geocaching. Limited quantities of the 2020 Lackey coin are also currently available.

Chris
Hopelessly addicted cacher and Geocaching HQ's public relations manager.