With all the recent buzz about Bitcoin — being able to exchange them for Amazon gift cards, and the value of the cryptocurrency soaring to new heights — what might have gotten left out is that you can actually obtain a physical form of the crytpo-currency.
Called the Casascius Bitcoin, each physical coin comes in different sizes and is made with different material depending on its value. The coins are made by one person not a government or governing body, so if you’re wondering what gives them actual value, it’s that each coin has a little card embedded inside that contains a Bitcoin wallet with the coin’s value — in BTC — in the account.
If you are wondering about the origin of the term “Casascius,” it’s not particularly interesting — it’s Caldwell’s online handle and the name of his site.
Created by Bitcoin enthusiast Mike Caldwell, the coins come in values of 1 BTC, 5 BTC, 10 BTC, and 25 BTC, and can only be paid for in Bitcoins. The 1 BTC coin is made of solid brass, has a diameter of about 1.125 inches, and weighs a quarter of an ounce, while the 5 BTC is the same size, but covered in nickel and slightly thicker.
The 10 BTC coin is made of 0.999 fined silver, has a diameter of around 1.53 inches, and weighs in at a little over one ounce. This coin is obtainable in either in full silver or a silver version with a gold-plated Bitcoin symbol.
Finally, the 25 BTC coin is electroplated with gold, has a diameter of 1.75 inches, and weighs in at about 1.2 ounces. There’s also a 100 BTC bar — simulating the idea of a gold bar found in a fancy vault — which is electroplated with gold, weighs about 4.2 ounces, and measures in at 80mm x 40mm x 6mm.
Currently, 1 BTC is worth about $92, but you can’t purchase a Casascius coin with US dollars, as Bitcoin is the only accepted form of payment.
Each physical coin contains a private Bitcoin wallet embedded on a card inside, which can be accessed using an 8-digit code unique to each coin and printed on the outside. In order to redeem the BTC kept on the coin, you simply enter the physical coin’s 8-digit code into your Bitcoin client of choice. Considering the value of the Bitcoin is stored on the card embedded within the coin and not upheld by the coin itself, if you remove funds from the coin, your shiny 25 BTC coin won’t be worth 25 BTC anymore.
Each Casascius Bitcoin is protected by a sturdy layer of holograms, which protects the 8-digit code, and is reportedly extremely difficult to tamper with unnoticed. If tampered with, the hologram is said to leave a very noticeable honeycomb pattern on the coin. Since Caldwell created the physical coins, he had access to the cards and the accounts on which the funds are stored. However, he claims that since he has given out his real-world identity, if he ripped you off you’d be able to easily find him and take legal action.
Unfortunately, as of April 1 Caldwell had to cease direct orders of Casascius Bitcoins. Due to the sudden popularity of the currency, Caldwell felt unable to supply the market with his coins by himself, so now you can only obtain the physical coins through resellers, or through invites from Caldwell himself. However, if you trust auction sites, it’s easy enough to jump on eBay and find them.
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