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Why is this "quadrigraph" necessary?

From: Bruce Korb
Subject: Why is this "quadrigraph" necessary?
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2014 13:38:54 -0800
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:31.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/31.2.0

[if test X${INVOKE_AG_MACROS_LAST_done} != Xyes ; then]
  [ag_gv=$( exec 2>/dev/tty ; set -x
  gdir=$(pkg-config --cflags-only-I guile-${GUILE_EFFECTIVE_VERSION})
  gdir=$(echo ${gdir#-I})
  gdir=$(awk '/SCM_MICRO_VERSION/{ print @S|@3 }' ${gdir}/libguile/version.h)
  printf '%u%02u%03u' ${GUILE_EFFECTIVE_VERSION%\.*} 

If I change that "@S|@" thingy to "$" it and the following "3" disappear.  Why?
(And, yes, this fragment only works on recent POSIX shells.)

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