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Canadian Coins Not Nano-Tech Espionage Devices 412

Necrotica writes "An odd-looking Canadian coin with a bright red flower was the culprit behind the U.S. Defence Department's false espionage warning earlier this year. The odd-looking — but harmless — "poppy coin" 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 "anomalous" and "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."
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Canadian Coins Not Nano-Tech Espionage Devices

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  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArcSecond ( 534786 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:08AM (#19021061)
    Just wow.
  • Conspiracy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tuoqui ( 1091447 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:09AM (#19021065) Journal
    Man this has tinfoil hat written all over it... Why wasn't the contractor given a government issued one?

    I mean really, nanotech in coins? They use nanotech in computer processors and look how much time and effort it takes to make one of them.
  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:09AM (#19021085)
    ... they still don't work in American vending machines or toll booths ... and thats what really matters, isn't it?
  • by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:10AM (#19021093)
    I'd rather have these folks a little paranoid because you never know [] when a suspicious looking item really is being used for espionage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I was telling myself that if I was a spy and my target was american, I think I'll try using something that looks like a nickel, not an odd-looking foreign commemorative special edition coin. OTOH, you may expect the guy to keep it as a souvenir instead of using it in a vending machine. Anyway, swapping his watch, phone or pen seems the better solution, it is slighly harder to perform, but once it's done, the guy is bugged with something apparently harmless he wants to keep whith him anywhere he goes.
      • by Bloke down the pub ( 861787 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:07PM (#19022071)

        I was telling myself that if I was a spy and my target was american, I think I'll try using something that looks like a nickel, not an odd-looking foreign commemorative special edition coin.
        Yeah, especially coloured bright red. You'd make it, I dunno, the same colour as the rest of coin so it doesn't stand out.

        What I want to know is why it didn't occur to anyone to 1) call Canada and ask them or 2) call a coin collector and ask them or 3) use google, rather than running around like headless chickens.

        Pity it wasn't the one dollar coin, then we could have had a cheap jibe about loonies. Oh well, eh.

    • I'd rather have these folks a little paranoid because you never know when a suspicious looking item really is being used for espionage.

      I'd rather the government have a little credibility rather than crying wolf about a coin that's been public knowledge for more than 2 years. I was suspicious if you didn't know anything about the coin, it just never should have been released as a public warning.
  • State of Fear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:10AM (#19021097)
    Kind of expected in a state of overly paranoid affairs. Paranoia is where rationality gets thrown out of the window.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ReTay ( 164994 )
      "Kind of expected in a state of overly paranoid affairs. Paranoia is where rationality gets thrown out of the window."

      Yeah but the great thing about paranoia is you only have to be right once for it to all be worth while. :)
      • Re:State of Fear (Score:5, Informative)

        by gvc ( 167165 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:56AM (#19021847)

        Yeah but the great thing about paranoia is you only have to be right once for it to all be worth while. :)
        Fallacy. The value of any sort of test or alarm depends on its positive predictive value; that is, the probability that when the alarm is raised, it is for cause. Paranoid judgments have essentially 0 predictive value. They are harmful because they divert resources from efforts with higher predictive value, and due to the direct undesirable consequences of responding to false alarms.
    • 1- Paranoia doesn't mean you're not actually a target. Actually, anyone who has access to data worth stealing might be targetted by a spy, but don't worry, it's usually painless.

      2- People like this man are expected to be suspicious when they see something odd. In that case, that leaded to useless investigation of something mundane to the point of being ridiculous (and a good occasion to have mock the apparent low tech of US currency), but that "better safe than sorry" is the expected behavior in some proffe
  • by MrJynxx ( 902913 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:12AM (#19021123)
    Aren't those the special Tim Hortons(Canadian version of crack in a cup) Remembrance Day coins they gave out a few years back? Funny they thought it had a microchip in them. Man some people can be so naive.
    • Um, no, Tim Horton's is not the mint [].

      I think that might be where I got my first one as well though :)
    • Technically, they were legal tender and supplied by the mint. I think Tim Hortons was just a sponsor or something and sold the quarters in coin-rolls in their coffee shops.
    • by basic0 ( 182925 )
      Yes they are. This year I believe they distributed coins with pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness. I mean, I'm all for remembering the sacrifices of our veterans and fighting breast cancer, but I can't help thinking: "Man, our money is so GAY!"

      As a sidenote, we Canadians do have both Second Cup and (Star|Four|Six)buck's (whichever "crack in a cup" refers to). They're generally found in malls and shopping centres (not standalone stores) and mainly popular with fancy lads who make their own soap. Corre

    • by Prairiewest ( 719875 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:42AM (#19021625) Homepage

      Aren't those the special Tim Hortons (Canadian version of crack in a cup) coins
      Oh, that's what kept me coming back for more coffee? I thought it was the opium-laced poppy coins they were giving me....
    • Well, if the Starbucks/Tim Hortons comparison are true, then yes, yes you should be afeared of them inserting nanotech spy devices into trinkets given away.

      It's a known fact that Starbucks is on a quest for domination of the US, and will not rest until there is a Starbucks on every street corner and every American is hooked. They plant the listening devices so they can make sure that you are getting your grande triple skim mocha latte extra mocha extra whip twice daily. How else do you expect them to ens
      • by WebCowboy ( 196209 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:54PM (#19024105)
        t's a known fact that Starbucks is on a quest for domination of the US, and will not rest until there is a Starbucks on every street corner and every American is hooked.

        Starbucks is a Tim Horton's wannabe--it isn't anywhere close to achieving domination of its home country the way Tim Horton's is. Let me give you an idea of just how far along Tim Horton's is in its quest to take over Canada:

        * Tim Hortons is the LARGEST fast-food/cafe chain in Canada. It is MORE THAN DOUBLE the size of McDonalds in Canada in terms of number of stores AND makes significantly more money than Mcdonalds does in Canada as well.

        * For every cup of coffee Starbucks sells in Canada, Tim Horton's sells TEN.

        * One of every four dollars spent on fast food in Canada is spent at Tim Horton's

        * Even though it has a relatively small presence in the US, it is large enough that it TOOK OVER a major US fast food chain (it merged with Wendy's, and the resulting merged entity was majority owned by former Tim Horton's ownership). It also took over other regional fast food businesses in the US (Hardee's, Rax, etc).

        So, it is an honest mistake to believe the special-issue coins might have been issued by Tim Horton's, given how thoroughly they have taken over the nation. However, it is not the case--legal tender is made exclusively by the Royal Mint despite the appearance that being a Tim Horton's franchisee is a license to print money.
    • by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:16PM (#19022231)
      Tim Horton's is not crack-in-a-cup. I can stop drinking it any time I want to. I could even stop right now, as soon as I finish this large double double*.

      * - note: authentic Canadian cultural reference, double double means double cream double sugar, the way it was meant to be drank, by the Lord God Thunderin' Jaysus!
  • To be fair, when so many are out to get you (or you believe they are), even an unusual pencil looks like a knife.
  • by testednegative ( 843833 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:14AM (#19021155)
    "An odd-looking American coin with a bird which can be described as an Eagle raises suspiscion among Canadian Citizens as an artifact for espionage. The odd-looking - but harmless - "eagle coin" is unfamiliar to suspicious Canadian Police Enforcement and forced them to submit private reports about the eagles "devil eyes" which can only mean they contain tracking devices to take over canada." can anyone else say omfg paranoia ?
  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:14AM (#19021157) Homepage
    All this tells me is that the Americans think it's possible for coins to be used as spying devices. They wouldn't think it if they weren't somehow certain. I'd be carefull with American coins if I were you ;)
    • Yeah, American coins can do some pretty amazing stuff. For example, did you know that any time they strike a coin of denomination greater than $1, it vaporizes within ten seconds? Strange but true.
      • by Megane ( 129182 )

        Yeah, American coins can do some pretty amazing stuff. For example, did you know that any time they strike a coin of denomination greater than $1, it vaporizes within ten seconds?

        Really? I thought it just instantly underwent radioactive decay like a super-heavy element and turned into an ugly Susan B Anthony quarter*, or a tarnished-beyond-recognition Sacagawea dollar. And then was swept under the rug by dumping them at post offices nationwide.

        * Yes, I actually typed "quarter" there before I noticed my error. That probably has some deep psychological significance.

      • Maybe they could ask Canada for help in this matter. We got a $2 coin. And I'm not quite sure if it's a joke or not, but people keep talking about the possibility of a $5 coin coming in the future.
    • That's not a trade deficit, it's a massive spy operation!

  • Canada vs. US (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kimos ( 859729 ) <> on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:14AM (#19021169) Homepage
    I can't think of a more appropriate example to illustrate the differences between our two countries.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:25AM (#19021329) Homepage
      that Canadians put red flowers on their coins, and Americans don't?
    • Yeah, well, when your country is taken over by paranoid chimps, don't come running for sympathy to me.
  • by CXI ( 46706 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:20AM (#19021251) Homepage
    The Defense Security Service is the same group that felt it was a good idea to ban access to their websites based on top level domain name. You see, they figured no one with a .edu domain name could be trusted despite universities being a large consumer of their services. I asked them how the heck we were supposed to view their site. They suggested that we "buy a .com" and then it would work fine. After weeks of explaining to them how bonehead an idea that was they changed their policy. *sigh*
  • idiots (Score:4, Funny)

    by Fuji Kitakyusho ( 847520 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:22AM (#19021267)
    Little do they know that it's the two dollar coin that is the surveillance device. It's obvious if you think about it - the dissimilar metals in the coin form a galvanic cell to power the transmitter. Furthermore - oh, wait a sec, I think I see a CSIS truck in my driveway...
    • Quick! Rub two dimes together (only 2001 version is applicable) at exactly the same frequency.

      You now have an improvised explosive device to act as a diversion and allow you to jump out window!


  • I know one of the guys who worked on the coin, he'll be please to know that the coin looked to have so advanced technology! ;)
  • This coin is not rare at all.
    The mint produced nearly 30 million such quarters in 2004 commemorating Canada's 117,000 war dead.

    Another very important subject about this false-espionnage coin:
    The Defence Security Service disavowed its warning about spy coins after an international furor, but until now it has never disclosed the details behind the embarrassing episode. The U.S. said it never substantiated the contractors' claims and performed an internal review to determine how the false information wa
  • by brian0918 ( 638904 ) <> on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:28AM (#19021367)
    "The report did not indicate what kinds of coins were involved. A service spokeswoman said details of the incidents were classified."

    So, basically, a weird looking coin led the government to believe there was an international threat, and the reason this belief remained intact for more than... say... 30 seconds, is that these idiots were too dumb to Google "remember souvenir" (the words on the coin), and yet they're given the ability to classify such nonsense, escalating a problem that could've been resolved by asking any Canadian to empty their pockets, into a threat to national security.

    Are they really stupid enough to think that spies are going to make tracking devices in the form of big red X's, and then put those devices on coins that are unlikely to stay in their possession for more than a day?

    The most hilarious part are the comments by one of the U.S. contractors, who sounds like he just got his Official Little Orphan Annie secret decoder pin in the mail:

    "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."
    • It would be even more obvious to visit The Royal Canadian Mint's website [] and check its information on commemorative and other coins.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree. It is amazing that they used a high power microscope to analyze the coin but did not even try a simple web search (as you mentioned, the first hits for "remember souvenir" are right on the spot) and did not consider looking at

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      It's simple to identify the spying coins.

      they have a blinking red LED on them and a pop out scanning radar dish.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fizzup ( 788545 )

      ...Google "remember souvenir" (the words on the coin)...

      It's worth pointing out that "souvenir" on the coin does not mean that it is a souvenir 25-cent piece. The coin is legal tender, and souvenir is the infinitive form of the verb to remember in French.

  • by caffeine_monkey ( 576033 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:29AM (#19021385)
    The Nigerian yellowcake was actually just... yellow cake. Angel food cake, to be exact.
  • by who's got my nicknam ( 841366 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:30AM (#19021409) Homepage
    given the current state of affairs in the US. When you live in a totalitarian state, you see enemies behind every bush (insert appropriate joke here). To the commenter who said it only takes being right once to make it all worth while I would say "You're deluded, my friend." One of your great statesmen once said that if you give up your freedom in exchange for security, you will end up with neither; this is being borne out as we speak. Americans are not "safe" from terror - they may be safe from terrorism, but as we can see from the daily news reports, Americans are a terrified people. Those contractors who freaked out about our memorial coins were obviously not feeling "safe", and felt it necessary to file a report about their suspicions. (Incidentally, what they assumed were "nanodevices" were likely the ink dots from the printing process; the Royal Canadian Mint isn't known for its quality when it comes to short-run commemorative coins.) This is just another incident that, along with the Boston Police department's War On Things That Blink, make me glad I have absolutely no reason to travel to the US. For your sakes, I hope you get a new administration with a brain in it next time round!
    • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:06PM (#19023201)
      When you live in a totalitarian state

      Well, at least we live in a country where we have dictionaries and whatnot that allow us to look up that word and understand what it actually means, and then look around the world and see where it's actually true.

      You know, in countries next door to places where contractors actually do get bugged, kidnapped, and killed by people with a political agenda. If you're in that line of work, you've been to seminars where other guys in that line of work tell you what it's like to have your hotel room surveiled, your luggage tracked, or your co-workers decapitated. Canada isn't next door to Iran, but it is a place - just like the US - through which flows (and in which lives) folks with certain connections to operations like Hamas or countries like China and Iran that have a long track record of military and industrial espionage. Do you REALLY think that the US is a "totalitarian" state? What word do you use for places like Cuba, where (unlike the US or Canada) you can get shot for desparately trying to leave. Or North Korea? Are you THAT addled by your dislike for the US that you're that willing to close your eyes to places where such nonsense is the very nature of daily life and death, just so you're more comfortable using that label to score political points?
  • The quarter is the fourth one down on this page [].
  • focus (Score:2, Insightful)

    by crAckZ ( 1098479 ) [] worried about a coin but they cant keep track of the laptops. i think they need to focus on some of the important things before looking with the naked eye for nano-spy gear
  • Projection (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Excelcia ( 906188 ) <> on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:39AM (#19021545) Homepage Journal
    When you are a country who's law allows the kidnapping of foreign nationals, who's laws allow "rendition", who's laws allow Guantanamo to exist... a country who spies on everyone else, then you see yourself in others too. One tends to expect from others the sort of treatment you meet out. Conversely, the society for which the above is unthinkable tends not to see those threats everywhere else. This story isn't so much funny, as it is deeply... deeply sad.
  • Didn't we invade them already?


    Seriously, this is really funny. I mean the DoD doesn't know what coins are being used by our northern neighbor and are worried about spying from them? Go figure! Oh, I guess 'cause it is a poppy they're thinking some evil drug thing.
  • In Flanders Field (Score:4, Informative)

    by Deliveranc3 ( 629997 ) <deliverance@leve[ ]org ['l4.' in gap]> on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:41AM (#19021597) Journal
    IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
    Between the crosses row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.
  • After they've spent months determining coloured Canadian coins wouldn't kill us.
    What will they do next to wow us? Stop terrorists from using airplanes? Rescue hurricane victims?
  • by gwn ( 594936 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:51AM (#19021763)
    I can understand the concern, especially considering the quality and technical savvy of the Royal Canadian Mint. Here is part of the Wiki entry:

    "The Mint has been at the forefront of currency innovation. Among the Mint's technical innovations have included its plating process, which consists of a multi-ply technology that allows electromagnetic signatures to be embedded in the coins, assuring readability in the coin-processing industries.[3] Its other innovation was the world's first coloured circulation coin, the 2004 Remembrance Day 25 cent piece, with a red poppy on the reverse. Further innovation was achieved with the adaptation of the Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) technology to coat its dies, extending the life of the die beyond that of past chrome coated dies.[4]" []

    Now, consider that the mint also makes coins for many other countries, US military contractors and security conscious travelers can be even more paranoid.

    By the way, Canadian money is made by and controlled by the Canadian government... Do you know who makes and controls US currency? If you guessed the US government, you should check again.
    • by IP_Troll ( 1097511 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:47PM (#19023957)
      By the way, Canadian money is made by and controlled by the Canadian government... Do you know who makes and controls US currency? If you guessed the US government, you should check again.

      Do you have any information to back that up? Last time I checked all US bills and most US coins have US Treasury mints marks printed on them. All US Treasury mints are in the US. All the paper for US bills are made from recycled cotton (jeans) in one paper mill in MA, where the watermarks and security bands are embedded during the paperforming process. The fact that this papermill has a monopoly on paper for US bills has caused considerable consternation among those who would like to cut the cost of creating money. Metal for US coins is similarly controlled.

      I am not trying to flame/be a troll, I honestly would like to know your sources.

      Also, do the Candian mints sell uncirculated collector sets like the US mints? These poppy coins seem pretty neat, I would like to get a collector set.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by khallow ( 566160 )
        I don't know. I know that North Korea and South American drug lords also dabble in the US currency printing business, but I doubt that's what he means.
  • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:54AM (#19021819) Homepage I need a picture of a kitten and a coin...
  • Who would believe something that kooky? Next thing you now someone will claim a box knife is an "evil tool" to hijack a plane.
  • Never..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by budword ( 680846 )
    Never attribute to malice (or paranoia) that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. There is no way the USA can stay on top for long, when even the "bright" people in the USA are brutally stupid.
  • Took 'em this long to figure this out?
  • by Neph ( 5010 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:04PM (#19023163) Homepage
    I'm not supposed to tell you this, but the poppy coins were just a decoy. The real tracking devices are embedded in these: N0328796820070503 []

    We're still working on the miniaturization issue.

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