Bitcoin is a native of the internet, and thus it is digital in its entirety. This is something about money that the world had never seen. Before the Internet, all forms of money have been based on tangible objects.
It is therefore not surprising that you may fancy having physical Bitcoins. These you would share with friends and family as memorabilia collectibles. Thanks to ingenious entrepreneurs, this is a reality. A few enterprises out there are minting coins that represent bitcoins and selling them to willing buyers.
Broadly, the physical Bitcoins in supply are in two forms:
- Those that act as wallets for bitcoins, as well as memorabilia
- Those that are not used as wallets, but only as memorabilia
Casascius is the oldest pre-loaded coin in the market. Mike Caldwell, a bitcoin enthusiast, began manufacturing and shipping them in 2011 from his home workshop. His collection included a variety gold, silver and brass plated coins embedded with bitcoin addresses and redeemable private keys underneath sealed hologram.
Since, owning bitcoins, means owning a set of private keys, owning Casascius coins means holding bitcoin value in the physical form. Indeed, for some, this is a preferred form of cold wallet.
Unfortunately, US FINCEN regulators now classify this activity as money transmission. This has forced Mike Caldwell to halt production of pre-funded coins. Nevertheless, those already in circulation can still be found on auctions and marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay as well as from individual owners on forums such as bitcointalk.org.
In a bid to comply with regulations, the company now ships unfunded physical coins that have empty private keys and address. Thus, buyers can legally purchase these coins and load them up themselves.
Ravenbit is a token coin made out of silver, copper, brass or bronze. It also comes in several designs. For instance, there is one design named Satoshi that features an outline of a man embedded with the name Satoshi Nakamoto in binary code. There is also the ‘Node’, which has an embossed ‘B’ symbol placed in the middle of a mesh network.
Just like the latter Casascius coins, Ravenbit coins are not pre-loaded with bitcoins. This is in compliance with the money transmitter regulations. You can, however, load them yourself by following a simple instruction guide shipped together with the kit. On the back of it, a space is left for embedding a QR code image.
Ravenbits are reasonably priced but are available in limited editions. And since they are less prone to online attacks, they are a great form of cold storage.
Denarium is produced by a Finish Bitcoin startup. The company also runs a bitcoin exchange. Due to the favorable regulatory environment in its home country, Denarium coins are preloaded with bitcoin funds between 0.1 and 0.01 bitcoin.
The company also manufactures empty coins for shipping to countries where regulations are strict on money transmission such as the United States. These the buyers can load up.
The Denarium coins are made out of brass and Bitcoin enthusiasts, and collectors can buy them from anywhere across Europe, North America, Australia and Asia.
This coin does not contain any bitcoin value, and was never intended to act as a physical wallet. The company behind it prefers to call it a ‘statistic physical Bitcoin coin’. Its production is tied events in the Bitcoin network’s history as a form of to commemoration.
The idea is to record historical events on coins made out of brass, zinc and a bit of gold metal. The supply is hard capped at 300 unique coins for every batch.
Indeed, physical Bitcoin do give the cryptocurrency a physical existence that makes it even more real to those who come into contact with them. Also, the funded ones are a convenient and secure cold storage.