2004 Uncirculated POPPY QUARTER ROLL- $10. SPY ROLL- MINT WRAP
40 COIN ROLL
'Poppy Quarter' Behind Spy Coin Alert
By TED BRIDIS
The Associated Press
Monday, May 7, 2007
WASHINGTON -- An odd-looking Canadian quarter with a bright red flower
was the culprit behind a false espionage warning from the Defense
Department about mysterious coins with radio frequency transmitters, The
Associated Press has learned.
The harmless "poppy quarter" was so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. Army
contractors traveling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage
accounts about them. The 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
obtained by the AP.
The silver-colored 25-cent piece features the red image of a poppy _
Canada's flower of remembrance _ inlaid over a maple leaf. The
unorthodox quarter is identical to the coins pictured and described as
suspicious in the contractors' accounts.
The supposed nano-technology on the coin actually was a protective
coating the Royal Canadian Mint applied to prevent the poppy's red color
from rubbing off. The mint produced such quarters in
2004 commemorating Canada's 117,000 war dead.
"It did not appear to be electronic (analog) in nature or have a power
source," wrote one U.S. contractor, who discovered the coin in the cup
holder of a rental car. "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."
The confidential accounts led to a sensational warning from the Defense
Security Service, an agency of the Defense Department, that mysterious
coins with radio frequency transmitters were found planted on U.S.
contractors with classified security clearances on at least three
separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the
contractors traveled through Canada.
"We'll have a good laugh over it," said John Regitko, who writes a
newsletter for a leading coin-collecting organization, the Canadian
Numismatic Association. "We never suspected there was such a thing (as
spy coins) anyway."
Regitko predicted the quarter will become especially popular among
collectors because of its infamy as the culprit behind the spy warning,
despite the quarter's wide availability. "Everybody has some in their
drawer at home," he said.
One contractor believed someone had placed two of the quarters in an
outer coat pocket after the contractor had emptied the pocket hours
earlier. "Coat pockets were empty that morning and I was keeping all of
my coins in a plastic bag in my inner coat pocket," the contractor
The Defense Department subsequently acknowledged it could never
substantiate the espionage warning, but until now it has never disclosed
the details behind the embarrassing episode.
In Canada, senior intelligence officials had expressed annoyance with
the American spy-coin warnings as they tried to learn more about the
"That story about Canadians planting coins in the pockets of defense
contractors will not go away," Luc Portelance, now deputy director for
the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, wrote in a January e-mail to
a subordinate. "Could someone tell me more? Where do we stand and
what's the story on this?"
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