Origin of Case
On the evening of Monday, June 22, 1953, a delivery boy for the
"Brooklyn Eagle" knocked on the door of one of his customers in the
apartment building at 3403 Foster Avenue in Brooklyn. It was
"collecting time" again. A lady answered the door. She disappeared
for a moment, then returned with a purse in her hand.
"Sorry, Jimmy," she said. "I don't have any change. Can you break
this dollar bill for me?"
The newsboy quickly counted the coins in his pocket. There were not
enough. "I'll ask the people across the hall," he said.
There were two ladies in the apartment across from the one occupied
by Jimmy's customer. By pooling the coins in their pocketbooks, they
were able to give the newsboy change for a dollar.
After he collected for the newspaper, Jimmy left the apartment house
jingling several coins in his left hand. One of the coins seemed to
have a peculiar ring. The newsboy rested this coin, a nickel, on the
middle finger of his hand. It felt lighter than an ordinary nickel.
He dropped this coin to the floor. It fell apart! Inside was a tiny
photograph -- apparently a picture of a series of numbers.
Two days later (Wednesday, June 24, 1953) during a discussion of
another investigation, a detective of the New York City Police
Department told a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent about
the strange hollow nickel which, he had heard, was discovered by a
Brooklyn youth. The detective had received his information from
another police officer whose daughter was acquainted with the
When the New York detective contacted him, Jimmy handed over the
hollow nickel and the photograph it contained. The detective, in
turn, gave the coin to the FBI.
In examining the nickel, Agents of the FBI's New York Office noted
that the microphotograph appeared to portray nothing more then ten
columns of typewritten numbers. There was five digits in each number
and 21 numbers in most columns. The Agents immediately suspected
that they had found a coded espionage message. They carefully
wrapped the nickel and microphotograph for shipment to the FBI
Upon its receipt in Washington on June 26, 1953, the nickel was
subjected to the thorough scrutiny of a team of FBI scientific
experts. Hollow coins, though rarely seen by the ordinary citizen,
are occasionally used in magic acts and come to the attention of
Federal law enforcement agencies from time to time. This was the
first time, however, that the FBI had ever encountered a nickel
quite like this one.
The face of the coin was a 1948 Jefferson nickel. In the "R" of the
word "TRUST", there was a tiny hole -- obviously drilled there so
that a fine needle or other small instrument could be inserted to
force the nickel open.
The reverse side had been made from another nickel -- one minted
sometime during the period of 1942 to 1945. It was composed of
copper-silver alloy, there being a shortage of nickel during World
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