Featured Coins and Codes

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by kaparthy, Feb 3, 2019.

  1. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    During World War II, Canada included a patriotic message on its 5-cent coins: We win when we work willingly. The slogan was in Morse code, flush along the rim of the reverse. While not obvious, neither was it intended to be secret. Rather, the message was an element of the propaganda effort. Another wartime effort was Canada’s use of tombac, an 88-12 alloy of copper and zinc to replace nickel on the 5-cent coins of 1942 and 1943.
    1 cent 5 cent reverses.jpg

    We win when we work.png
    In our time, the US “Native American” (Sacagawea) dollars for 2016 honor the Code Talkers. At first, during World War I, Native American soldiers worked as telephone operators because it was unlikely that Germans (who did know English) would know their languages. In addition, the Americans quickly adopted slang of their own to add a layer of obfuscation.

    World War II was a much larger and longer engagement. In 1943, the total population of the USA was 136.7 million, of whom 9.2 million were in the armed forces. Although American civilians who were ethnically Japanese were placed in concentration camps, their sons were allowed to join the armed forces (and fight in Europe). So, of course, the military tapped a new generation of Native American Code Talkers.

    (Shown here is the reverse (proof) and obverse (business strike) of the 2016 Code Talkers commemorative One Dollar "Native American" (Sacagawea) coin.
    2016 Codetalker Reverse.jpg US Code Talker Quarter Obv (1) copy.jpeg
    Although the Navajo Code Talkers are the best known among them, as a result of books and a recent movie, in fact, they came from over 30 tribes and nations.

    On the other side of the Atlantic the British were engaged in a “wizard war” against the Germans. Among their “boffins” were the codebreakers of Bletchley Park. The 2014 movie The Imitation Game told the story of Alan Turing and his failed romance with Elisabeth Clarke. Clarke was a brilliant mathematician, and an accomplished codebreaker. After the war, she took up a numismatics, largely as a result of her husband John Kenneth Murray’s collection of Scottish coins. In particular, several series of silver groats and gold “unicorns” were not well identified or sequenced as the weights and finenesses had changed during the reigns of James III and James IV. She figured it all out, publishing and delivering papers. (See “The Early Unicorns and the Heavy Groats of James III and James IV” in the British Numismatic Journal, Volume 40, Number 8, 1971 online here: https://www.britnumsoc.org/publications/Digital BNJ/pdfs/1971_BNJ_40_8.pdf)

    For her work, the British Numismatic Society granted her a John Sanford Saltus Gold Medal in 1986, the only time that the medal was awarded to someone working exclusively with Scottish coins.

    Here in the USA today, computer security professionals have taken up the military challenge coin; and included codes, ciphers and hidden messages in them. According to the SANS Institute: "The Coin, Round Metal Object (RMO), is designed to be awarded to those who demonstrate exceptional talent, contributions, or helps to lead in the digital forensics profession and community. The Coin is meant to be an honor to receive it; it is also intended to be rare. Those who join the Lethal Forensicators Unit will have all privileges and recognition.”

    Shown here are two coins from the Austin, Texas, chapter of OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) conventions. The red one is from an annual "B-Sides" spring meeting and the blue is from an annual autumn LASCON (Lonestar Application Security Conference) meeting. The coins were awarded to those who cracked the codes and hidden messages on the convention name badges.

    Badge Game Challenge Coin 1.jpg Lascon Challenge Coin.jpg

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  3. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    I read it as 'coeds'.........never mind. devil.gif

    Currently reading The Key to Rebecca, by Ken Follett. Ciphers have always fascinated me........
  4. Inspector43

    Inspector43 70 Year Collector

    I have some of those. Had them since the 40's or early 50's and never new that about the Morse Code. Thanks.
  5. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

  6. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    I've more than a few of those medals..........:)
    kaparthy likes this.
  7. eddiespin

    eddiespin Fast Eddie

    Now this is coin collecting! Neither did I know this about these coins. Well done, Michael.
    LaCointessa, ldhair and green18 like this.
  8. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    Then you might enjoy
    Charles Babbage Codebreaker
    Variations on Enigma
    The Code Book

    ... as well as...
    Spanish Coins on American Notes
    The Art of Finance
    Sacred Silver from the Roof of the World: Tibetan Tangkas https://necessaryfacts.blogspot.com/2013/09/sacred-silver-from-roof-of-world.html
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
  9. mlov43

    mlov43 주화 수집가

    88% Copper - 12% Zinc is "tombac?"


    I think that alloy is also called "commercial bronze" is it not?
  10. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    Well... now I know. Tombac is one of the few Indonesian loan-words in English. It is 5% to 20% zinc or with other metals and mostly copper. Commercial copper is 90-10. Wikipedia knows.

    (Your South Korea webpages are nice. Thanks.)
  11. mlov43

    mlov43 주화 수집가

    The word "bronze" in the name, "Commercial Bronze" is just a way to name the alloy, and is not indicating that it has tin. That Wikipedia page notes, "Commercial bronze (90% copper and 10% zinc)" so I guess 88% Copper and 12% Zinc is close enough...

    However, Tombac implies a zinc ratio that makes it a more accurate name for 88% Cu - 12%Zn. So thanks!
  12. Seattlite86

    Seattlite86 Outspoken Member

    I had no idea about the morse code. Thanks for the write up!
  13. ToriRose83

    ToriRose83 New Member

    How cool I actually have one of these Canadian coins.
  14. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector Supporter

    Now that movie is only loosely based on facts ;) And if the UK ever issues a coin honoring Alan Turing, "code" is likely to be part of the design. The movie also ignored, by and large, the Polish contributions to cracking the Enigma code. Here are three coins from Poland, issued in 2007, that deal with these efforts:


    Of course several other modern coins have "codes" too. But those are not necessarily war or military related.

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  15. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    Which ones? I mean, really, even the communication we accept here as "plaintext" is really just a code. And we all know DEF FID IND IMP and all that... I certainly would like to know more about coins and codes.
  16. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector Supporter

    You will know the Italian 500 lire coin that has the value "500" in Braille at the top. Now whether that counts as a code, I don't know (and actually the dots on that coins were too small to be "readable" by blind people), but AFAIK it was the first coin with Braille.

    Germany usually uses mintmarks on the coins, but sometimes the government decides to not have them on this or that collector coin. However, they will need or want some means of differentiation, for QC purposes. So various "tricks" have been used, see here, comments 2, 3, 7 and 9.

    €10 2006 FIFA World Cup: The slogan ("DIE WELT ZU GAST BEI FREUNDEN") was used as the edge inscription; it contains five E's. Usually the three horizontal bars of that character have the same width or length. Now a middle bar of an E that is shorter than the top and bottom bar will indicate the mint: First "E" > Berlin, second "E" > Munich, etc.

    €10 2009 IAAF Athletics Championship: Here a morse code was added on the edge, with dots and dashes indicating the mint.

    2010 Alpine World Ski Championship (in 2011): It gets even trickier, but you need a magnifying glass for this. If you look at what the athlete wears, there is a certain pattern that differs slightly depending on where the coin was minted.

    2011 Women's World Cup: Here it is the edge inscription again; the motto ("DIE ZUKUNFT DES FUSSBALLS IST WEIBLICH") has five S. All characters are sans-serif letters, but one S will have serifs. Is it the first one? Then the coin is from Berlin, etc.

    kaparthy likes this.
  17. John Skelton

    John Skelton Morgan man!

    Then you should also read "The Code Girls" by Lisa Munday. It's the fascinating true story about the women who worked in cryptography during WWII in America.
    kaparthy likes this.
  18. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector Supporter

    And of course there are many "gimmicks" too. In 2011 for example the Dutch mint made a collector coin with QR code, see here. The coin design, oh well. But the code does (as far as I can tell) not even work any more. ;)

  19. juris klavins

    juris klavins Well-Known Member

    Secret society tokens, military challenge tokens and the like are a related subject - anyone can own the 'code coins', but the secret/challenge tokens are legitimately owned only by those who 'need to own', perhaps in lieu of the secret handshake :cool: -- a past thread here: https://www.cointalk.com/threads/secret-societies-coins.269580/
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
  20. iPen

    iPen Well-Known Member

    As a WWII history buff, I enjoy things like this. I already have those coins and knew about them but it's always nice to go back and look at the coins you have, instead of perusing through new coins to acquire. Anyway, this is off-topic a bit but this post reminded me of the playing cards given to POWs by the Red Cross. They had a secret map for POWs to use and escape with. The map gets revealed when wet. The example below is a replica set, but you get the picture.

  21. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks! I was thinking of such control marks on Medieval coins. It is one thing to have your name on the front page of a scandal, but another to have your hands cut off or your eyes put out, so, Mint control marks were important to everyone. I have placed several reviews of Marshall Faintich's Astronomical Symbols on Ancient and Medieval Coins. I think that some of the stars, etc., were intended as controls.

    See the paper by Joan Clarke Murray that I referenced at the top.
    https://www.britnumsoc.org/publications/Digital BNJ/pdfs/1971_BNJ_40_8.pdf
    She used Gothic versus Roman lettering, three-lis and five-lis crowns, and other differences to sequence the groats and unicorns. At root, perhaps some or all of these are just random variations in craftsmanship, but I think not. The fact that they lent themselves to decoding by a cryptographer indicates that some to many if not all were intentional.
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