Hollow spy coins for all your micro-smuggling needs

When does a nickel cost $27? When it's a hollow spy coin made by Brian Dereu. The spy nickel that Dereu sells in our new Boing Boing Bazaar holds a microSD card, but his inspiration is strictly Cold War spy tech:
 System Product Images 238 Original M NickelDuring the Cold War, Spies from both the East and West used Hollow Coins to ferry secret messages, suicide poisons, and microfilms undetected. On May 1st, 1960 U2 Pilot Gary Francis Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union and taken captive. In his possession was a hollow silver dollar containing a poisoned needle that was to be used to take his own life in such a circumstance. For one reason or another, he did not use it and was held for 21 months by the Soviets. He was then exchanged for Soviet spy KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher (aka Rudolf Abel) at the Glienicke Bridge, in Berlin, Germany. Colonel Fisher was also no stranger to hollow coins...his original capture by the United States FBI was directly related to a hollow nickel that was used to transport microfilm.
Hollow Spy Coins (Boing Boing Bazaar)


  1. I must admit, the thought of planting a note in one of these, a sort of message in a bottle, and then putting it into circulation is an absolutely fascinating idea.

    1. At $27 per coin, it would be cheaper just to put baggies of pot in library books (as recommended by Abbie Hoffmann.)

      1. True, BUT the nickel would take someone actually looking for it to find it, the library book would merely end up with somebody baking brownies.

  2. This makes me wonder what sort of crazy spygadgets are actually in use right now.

    I mean, if anybody can store thousands of images on a device smaller than a fingernail (and costs almost nothing), then what kind of gizmos do spys carry around now?

  3. I guess the reason why they stopped giving poison capsules to spies was that very few of them actually took them (and they were probably bad for morale)
    In another subject, why is it that the mobile version of the site doesn’t support leaving comments?

  4. You know when else a nickel costs $27? Magic shops. Shells, Expanded Shells, Half Dollars with 20 Centavo pieces hidden inside, quarters with a trap-door to “push a cigarette through” etc etc. Same coin special-ness, far more geeky.

    1. These magic coins have been around for years, possibly up to a hundred years in some cases. I was hoping someone would point this out usaonia…

  5. Just a matter of time before we see possession of such a “counterfeit” or “defaced” coin added to a long list of charges in an effort to coerce a plea bargain from someone who has somehow been caught in the government’s spotlight.

    If you have any reason to believe you may ever attract the serious ire of a customs agent, a police officer, or a prosecuting attorney, it seems like this would not be a great thing to have in your possession when that happens. Another one of those laws that aren’t enforced, except very occasionally — and then they are used to crush someone.

  6. I wonder how this would look under X-Ray… Hate to be the sap who finds out while travelling through the US or some other paranoid country like China. Those rubber gloves would be out quick!!

  7. I am curious why the NRO or CIA expected Gary Powers to be permitted to keep anything once in custody.
    BoingBoing can do all the articles they want on spy gadgets, they don’t get old.

  8. ‘For one reason or another, he did not use it’

    I believe the reason is most likely HE DIDN’T WANT TO DIE.
    Hardly an ignoble aim.

  9. I got one of the UK 1d (or maybe 2d) coins back when this was on BoingBoing last time round http://boingboing.net/2009/07/27/hollow-spy-coin.html

    The coins look 100% genuine but they feel and sound completely wrong. For obvious reasons they’re way too light and the hollowness means that they sound completely different when you tap them against another coin. But even when you realise what the coin is, there’s no way to get it open without the special collar – unless you want to destroy the thing.

  10. I noticed these on the Bazaar, and my main thought was “I’d totally spend that by accident.”

    My next was “if I throw an apparently-unformatted SD card through the X ray machine, the customs won’t give it a second glance. But if it’s in one of these coins, they sure as hell will want to know what’s on it.”

    It’s a nice gimmick, looks beautifully machined, but I’m not seeing a whole lot of cool uses for it.

    So: who can come up with the best potential use for one of these?

    1. When you go through security they don’t X-Ray your coins and keys, they just go in the little bin for visual inspection.

  11. How about corporate espionage? No need to avoid getting searched upon exiting the building. Heck, you could even get busted after downloading what you need, but as long as you got a candy bar from the vending machine first, no problemo.

    – Mr. Bluesky

  12. “I guess the reason why they stopped giving poison capsules to spies was that very few of them actually took them (and they were probably bad for morale)”

    Depends where you get caught. Death is often MUCH preferrable these days.

    Corporate espionage indeed.

    I’ve worked private security at places where that nickel – with that USB drive hidden in it – could destroy the entire business by making it unprofitable. Or, rather, some similar device already did destroy it… too many places with that sort of vulnerability just aren’t serious about security. No, can’t rile up the workers by telling them they can’t have change or makeup in a secured area… There goes another 500 jobs.

  13. I think 1 can see inside stuff at some extent in x-ray machine if sent to an international destination in an envelope etc.

  14. Dewi: The pocket contents bins do got through x-ray, and are not visually inspected (OK, someone visually inspects them by watching the scanner display and pushing buttons that change the colours in some manner I don’t understand). Whether the operator notices an atypical coin is a matter of chance. I think if they were trained to look for them, they would find some percentage of the ones presented.

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