Featured I bought a "coin" with a very dark history . . . . . . .

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by ZoidMeister, Nov 6, 2020.

  1. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Hamlet Squire of Tomfoolery . . . . . Supporter


    I have been enamored of late by some of the astounding architectural bronze medals engraved by Wiener, Bianchi, and others during the mid 1800's. In trolling for a few new "objects of my affection" I ran across something that piques my curiosity, and that I just had to pick up . . . . and I believe that it might have quite the dark history in and of itself . . . .

    (click on the images to enlarge)



    On the surface, this looks like a somewhat ordinary anniversary medal for the St. Peter's Cathedral in Cologne Germany, but the Cologne Cathedral is no ordinary edifice.

    In itself, the cathedral has quite the history. It's construction began in medieval 1248 and continued until 1560, when all work on it stopped. It sat unfinished for 300 years until the mid 1800's when construction resumed. Construction was finally finished in 1880, some 640 years after it began, and the medal below is commemorating the 100 Year Anniversary of its completion. 100 years later, the Cologne Cathedral in West Germany largely survives the conflicts of both World Wars while the surrounding city was flattened.

    But this thread isn't about the cathedral and its rather unique place in history, but it does make the medal in question even more interesting, and places this unique landmark at the center of how the "coin" below captured my attention.

    On the surface this rather pedestrian attempt at designing "souvenir" medal commemorating the completion of the cathedral had just enough design interest to initially capture my attention. The quality of this design is nowhere near the level created by medal engraving artisans of the mid 1800's, but the somewhat "darker" features of this medal piqued my curiosity and brought me to purchase it.

    The 100 Year Anniversary of its completion occured in 1980, almost one decade prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Jimmy Carter was still President and Ronald Regan had just been elected to his first term. The Cold War was still in full swing.

    Ostensibly, the spy trade was also in full swing, and that is when, I believe, this little medal was created.

    One will notice that this medal is a little "thicker" than normal and when dropped, has a somewhat "hollow" sound. Upon close observation, one can see a very fine seam around the edge of this "coin."

    Closer inspection reveals the following.



    Given the time frame in question, I have no doubt that this medal, this device, was put into play during the latter years of the Cold War. It is no longer a commemorative medal, but in fact, a Spy Coin used to clandestinely transmit information from one side, to the other

    THAT is what beckoned me to pick up an interesting, but otherwise unremarkable architectural medal.

    Thought you might like to see this one as well.

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  3. Paddy54

    Paddy54 Variety Collector

  4. ddddd

    ddddd Member

    That's cool!
    Did you know about the hidden compartment before purchasing or was it discovered after examining it in hand?
  5. Dima

    Dima Member Supporter

    Bah.. now I've got to look through my entire collection to make sure none of my coins have secret spy letters inside.. ;)

    Very cool piece and excellent discovery!!
  6. Paddy54

    Paddy54 Variety Collector

    Several years ago a Trade Dollar spy coin was listed on ebay.
    One hellva engineered piece of work.
    The seller had it imaged next to a solid trade dollar....no seams could be seen, and its weight was within tolerance for a trade dollar.
    I dont believe that the seller truly wanted to sell.... as it didnt....but I've never seen another as well done as it was... most carried micro film....some opium..
    ZoidMeister, Dima, spirityoda and 2 others like this.
  7. Cachecoins

    Cachecoins Historia Moneta Supporter

    Not sure if I agree with the premise 100% but I do love these hidden compartment coins.
    medoraman and ZoidMeister like this.
  8. spirityoda

    spirityoda Coin Junky Supporter

    Interesting. Before I die I want to buy this cathedral medal by Jacques Wiener...

    10421432_572158619571407_3406280438503198954_n copy.jpg
    10401375_572158802904722_1657548930301881697_n copy.jpg
  9. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Hamlet Squire of Tomfoolery . . . . . Supporter

    Yes, I knew about it. It was advertised as a spy coin. It would have escaped my notice if it didn't have the architectural design.

    What if I told you that I got this from a seller who I have bought historically significant bronze medals from in the past?

    And what if I told you that the seller ships from Budapest Hungary, which places the origins of this medal in close proximity to both the structure and puts it on the "wrong" side of the iron curtain when it was made?

    That is where I got this from. Here is another medal that came in with the same shipment as the "spy coin."



    I'm a sucker for these.

  10. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Hamlet Squire of Tomfoolery . . . . . Supporter

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  11. shanxi

    shanxi Well-Known Member

    Last edited: Nov 7, 2020
  12. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Hamlet Squire of Tomfoolery . . . . . Supporter

    Crud, story of my life.

    I figured this was Maxwell Smart's pocket piece . . . . .

    Roman Collector and Cachecoins like this.
  13. Paddy54

    Paddy54 Variety Collector

    Didn't see that comming..... 73133e44999619e2ff07daa3b7eaf44f.jpg
    Roman Collector and ZoidMeister like this.
  14. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Я люблю черных кошек

    If you want the real coin with a real dark history check out the story on the "Hollow Nickle Case" which eventually led to the arrest of Rudolf Abel - the spy that was swapped for Francis Gary Powers. Rudolf Abel was unique amongst spies in that he never gave up any information to the CIA after he was arrested.
    ZoidMeister likes this.
  15. Marites Foertsch

    Marites Foertsch Honey bunch

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  16. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Hamlet Squire of Tomfoolery . . . . . Supporter

    Look into medals by Bianchi as well.

    Here are some photos of one that I recently acquired







    And here's an idea of it's relative size . . . .


    Last edited: Nov 7, 2020
  17. paddyman98

    paddyman98 Let me burst your bubble! Supporter

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  18. spirityoda

    spirityoda Coin Junky Supporter

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  19. masterswimmer

    masterswimmer Well-Known Member

    Awesome medal, commemorative, spy piece, covert ops, whatever it is, or all the above. :) Great design, and captivating story. Thanks for sharing.
    ZoidMeister likes this.
  20. Marites Foertsch

    Marites Foertsch Honey bunch

  21. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    I’ve been in the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), which is spectacular, and it was the closest I’ve come to having my pocket picked when traveling in Europe. I was wearing a small backpack which is for daily walking around, and we were following a tour guide in the cathedral. Uncharacteristically and dumbly, I had put my passport in the pack. As I was listening to the guide, I felt something touch my back. I twisted my head, and a young man had his hand in the pack! I twirled around, but he disappeared into the crowd in an instant. Fortunately, he didn’t have time to take anything.

    Since then I have been sure not to carry my passport or cash in a backpack. I use a small gender-neutral purse carried at the front. It has double zippered compartments, embedded wire screening, and a wire-reinforced neck strap. If possible, I leave my passport locked in a safe where I’m staying and carry around my U.S. passport card. It's only $10 extra when you get a passport but is NOT a substitute for the passport. It can be used as an ID for domestic flights and surface travel to Canada and Mexico. However, it is a great ID card, and if you ever lose a passport when traveling abroad, it’s probably the best ID to have for dealing with local officials and for getting a temporary passport at a consulate or embassy. Carry it separately from the passport!

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