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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

This Looks Like a Job for NUMISTMATISTMAN!

You remember a while back when US defense contractors were warned that sooper sekrit spy coins were planted on defense contractors in Canada?

The Defense Department is warning its American contractor employees about a new espionage threat seemingly straight from Hollywood: It discovered Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.

The government insists the incidents happened, and the risk was genuine. "What's in the report is true," said Martha Deutscher, a spokeswoman for the security service. "This is indeed a sanitized version, which leaves a lot of questions."

At the time, several blog commentators (and me, though I don't remember writing about it anywhere) wondered how they'd make a coin identical in weight to a regular coin, yet filled with spy stuph. And how far you could transmit using an antenna no bigger than a coin, encased in metal. And why a coin, for Godsake, which your mark is gonna insert into the nearest vending machine. And...Canada?

Well, it turns out that it was all a big misunderstanding, and that the super duper spy coins were really just commemorative quarters:

The stunning explanation behind the U.S. government's sensational warnings about mysterious Canadian spy coins is the harmless poppy quarter.

The world's first colourized coins were so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. army contractors travelling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them.

Link chosen for its headline: "Canucks are 2-bit spies: U.S." (Here's another good one: Mysterious spy coin simply poppycock. That one has a picture and quotes from peeved Canadians.)

The Royal Canadian Legion (scroll down) has a long write-up about the coins, with some info about the color printing process. Nice V commemorative nickel there, too. Here's a site showing the quarter rolls in their special paper wrappers. Sold out, now, though.

This is my favorite part:

Worried contractors described the coins as "filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology," according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails. The supposed nano-technology on the coin actually was a protective coating the Royal Canadian Mint applied to prevent the poppy's red colour from rubbing off.

Don't know what it is? It must be NANO-TECHNOLOGY!

"Under high power microscope, it appeared to be complex consisting of several layers of clear, but different material, with a wire-like mesh suspended on top."

So the genius put it under a high power microscope, but it didn't occur to him to Google recent Canadian coin issues, or even to go up to a clerk and ask, in his best hick voice, "Hyuk. Lookit this here quarter. Never seed nothin' like that before. Says it's a "Remember Souvenir." Reckon it's worth somethin'?" And then the clerk would tell him it's just a fancy quarter, and would have a new "stupid American" story to share with friends and family. Canadians love that.

You know, most guys would say, "Whoa, a colored coin! Cool! The kids will get a kick out of this." But I guess when you're a defense contractor, danger is your middle name, and every man's hand is turned against you. They must have to beat off the slinky spy dames with a stick.

Canadian blogger Marian Bantjes has a close-up of the poppy (scroll down) which nicely shows the sinister nano mesh. Apparently up in Canada they have home high-power microscopes. The alternative explanation would be that you don't need a microscope to see the mesh, just a magnifying glass.

(Enjoy the other nice Canadian coins there. I didn't realize Canada changed their coins so often, or that they had such nice designs. At the top, Bantjes rightly notes that Americans are stubborn about their money, resisting changes in its appearance. Damn straight. Those state quarters and president dollars are nice -- I collect 'em -- but I hope we go back to the old designs when that's all done. And bring back the Eisenhower dollar, dammit! And get rid of those peach-colored bills; looks like Monopoly money. OK, money rant over.)

As several of the above sites note, these coins were first available only at Tim Hortons. I guess that poppy does resemble a donut. A cruller, maybe.

Blogger's all weird and slow today. I blame nanotechnology!

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