Geocoin Challenge Programs – FAQ

There always seems to be someone who is interested in promoting their region through the use of geocaching. The most common version of this is through the use of a geocoin challenge program. To help answer the most common questions we receive on this type of program, we have created this FAQ. Every program is different but this will provide you with the basics of how most of these programs run, how much they cost, and what is involved.

How can I use geocaching to promote a specific geographic region and/or municipality?

The most common method of incorporating geocaching into an area’s tourism is through the use of a geocoin challenge program. These programs encourage people to come and go out geocaching in a specific area in hopes of being able to obtain a free trackable geocoin. Geocachers will be in that specific area for the program and therefore be exposed to the area’s unique attributes. Depending on the nature of the program, they’ll see a variety of different things. They are also likely to eat or spend money at local establishments while in the area. This is a common side affect of having geocachers in your area.

What is a Geocoin Challenge?

Geocoin challenges usually consist of a series of geocaches which are hidden in a specific area or region that are hidden for the purposes of giving away a free trackable geocoin. Each cache contains something unique that is used to record the fact you found it (other than a geocaching.com log), and that unique item is used on a geocaching “passport” to record your progress. Once your passport is full, you can then submit it to the organizer to receive your free trackable geocoin.

What is a “passport”?

The passport serves as the means to prove you found each of the actual geocaches in a geocoin challenge. The passport usually consists of a list of each of the geocaches in the series, along with a spot to “mark” that it’s been found. The “mark” differs from program to program but the most commonly used methods are stickers, punches, and codes. For example, in the Fundy program, when you find the geocache, it has a “punch” inside. You then take your passport and find the spot that corresponds to the geocache you just found, and “punch” the passport with the punch. Each punch has a unique pattern which is imprinted on the passport. When all of the punches have been put on the passport, it shows that you have successfully completed finding all of the geocaches and are entitled to a coin. Stickers are used many times instead of punches and simply affixed to the spot they correspond to. In the 104 challenge, each cache has a unique code which you mark down on the passport.

Regardless of the specifics of the passport, they serve as a way to prove you actually went out and found the geocaches. Usually one passport allows you to obtain one free geocoin.

You can see a couple of samples of these passports here and here.

Do the Geocoin Challenges have events associated with them?

In most cases, the program gets launched with a “kickoff” event. In most cases, this event serves as the first opportunity for people to come and collect their coin after doing the challenge for the first time. Most programs usually have the geocaches associated with the challenge published a few days before the event. People can then go out and find them and then they can come to the kickoff event to collect their coins.

The event serves as the first opportunity to get the coins, and to officially launch the program. However, in some cases, depending on the popularity, the event can actually be the only time you can obtain the coins. For one of the Riverview Sunfest programs in 2013, 97 coins were given away at the event leaving only 3 coins left. Many people who did the challenge the week after the event were not able to obtain a coin because it was so popular at it’s launch.

How much do Geocoin Challenge programs cost?

This is a hard question to answer because it vastly depends on what you plan to do. Geocoin costs vary depending on the size and shape of the coin, but as a general guideline, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 for 100 coins. This cost also includes the ability for a geocoin to be trackable. Non-trackable geocoins will not attract the attention that a trackable coin will. If you want your program to be successful, make sure the coin is trackable.

Aside from that initial cost, all other costs are up to the organizer. Some give away prizes, some have free meals and other giveaways at the event. If the only thing you are going to be giving is the coin then the cost of said coin will be the only cost.

What are the responsibilities of running a program like this?

This varies from program to program but there are a lot of common things that need to be taken care of for a program like this.

  • You must be responsible for the regular maintenance of the geocaches hidden for the program
  • You will need to re-populate any geocaches that are missing stickers/codes/punches if there are still coins left and the program is active
  • You will need to have a system in place for people to be able to obtain their coin after the initial launch
    • This usually consists of the geocacher mailing the passport to a specific address then having their coin mailed back to them in the mail.
  • Geocache listings must be updated to inform geocachers when their are no more coins available
    • In some cases it may simply be easier to archive all the geocaches associated with the program
  • If you have multiple programs in place, you must have a system to track which coins belong to which program and which geocaches are associated with each program

In many cases, the organizer will work with a local geocaching organization (such as Cache Up NB) to have them take care of the program for them. This is usually in exchange for some sort of promotion of the local organization. Cache Up NB runs many different geocoin challenge programs in our province to help spread the interest in this activity.

How many geocaches should be hidden for such a program?

This is a hard question to answer as it completely depends on the type of program you want to have. The most common number hidden for geocoin challenge programs is usually between 5-10. The most we have seen hidden for a program is 35. The amount of geocaches hidden vastly varies depending on the specific nature of the program and how you wish to administer it. Here are a few examples:

  • The town of Riverview usually has two to three programs per year consisting of 5-6 geocaches each. These are meant to be relatively quick and easy to find with the focus being on seeing the town and completing the series within an hour to two hours.
  • The March of the 104 program has 35 geocaches but are spread out across the entire province of NB. You are only required to obtain 15 caches to get the coin, but the purpose behind the series has them being across the entire province.
  • The Fundy National Park program usually has between 5-6 geocaches hidden throughout the park. They are of a mixed terrain level and usually take the better part of a full day to find them all.

The biggest question we would say you should ask yourself when deciding on creating one of these programs is:

Do you want them to be able to find all of the geocaches within a single day?

Historically, programs where the participants can find all of the caches and get their coin, all on the same day, have been the most successful. This is primarily because people tend to think of that day as a nice day out geocaching with a little reward at the end. The multi-day challenges can also be successful but sometimes can run into issues because people will tend to forget about the program and move on to something else. By having it all done on a single day, the focus is on that specific challenge.

That being said, the multi-day challenges provide a different experience which in many cases is what geocachers are looking for. The Capturing The Bay, Fredericton GeoTour, and the 104 series are all examples of programs that have been successful that typically aren’t done in a single day (although they can be if pushed hard enough).

What are some of the other factors that I should consider before launching a Geocoin Challenge program?

First are foremost, the challenge should be fun. It can be easy or it can be hard but it needs to be fun. The geocaches themselves should be easy to find. The terrain to get to them can vary from high to low but make the geocaches themselves easy to find. Nothing higher than a 2.0 difficulty. Nothing is more frustrating to a geocacher than wanting to participate in a program like this and not being able to find the geocaches because they are SO well hidden. You can make them hike 10K but make the geocache easy to find.

Also, do not make the challenge an obvious attempt at commercial advertising. This is about geocaching and sharing the outdoors. It’s not about making it one long billboard ad for hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. Geocachers abhor the idea of using geocaching for the sole purpose of trying to sell you something. There have been programs in the past that were blatantly commercial in nature and there was a considerable amount of backlash from the geocaching community as a result. Those programs quickly earn a bad reputation and are ignored by many as a result. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to promote a community or region, but don’t make it about promoting Bob’s Burger Shack, or John’s Jackhammer Sales Shop.

Lastly, our experience has shown that “family friendly” geocaching challenges are the most popular. If you want your program to be successful, try and make it something that people of all ages can enjoy. The Fundy National Park program is a good example of what we believe to be the best balance. It has a few long hikes, and some easy ones. It’s a good combination of enjoying the trails and nice scenery without making it something that families can’t do because the hikes are too long. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback on the program there because of it’s family friendly nature.

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