Anyone searching for coin news on Google or Bing these days will find plenty of headlines about Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. While of course not the traditional, hard-copy money that collectors are typically drawn to, the new form of payment does have a numismatic element.
Bitcoin is an unregulated virtual currency that is not backed by any government and is exchanged only over the Internet, and there are just-as-unregulated physical bitcoins out there that collectors may (or may not) care to take note of.
Physical bitcoins can be used as typical online bitcoins, but the virtual element is paired with a physical, struck coin.
Inside physical bitcoins produced by the company Casascius until last year is a “private key” card with a code required for use of the bitcoin. To obtain the code and use the bitcoin, a hologram seal on the coin must be broken.
Casascius ceased sales of physical bitcoins containing private keys in November 2013, its website states. However, physical bitcoins can be found on other sites, including Titan Bitcoin and Micro Soul Physical Bitcoins.
Bitcoins as collector’s items
Titan Bitcoin, whose coins also have a coin ID within a hologram and unique web pages for individual coins that track the coin’s value, actually promotes its coins as collector’s items.
“The Titan Mint takes enormous pride in the quality of our artwork, and the craftsmanship that goes into each piece,” the company’s website reads. “Struck in limited editions, Titan Bitcoins are much more than just a safe way to store your digital currency.”
Appealing to those bitcoin users who might have been jaded by the February 2014 Mt. Gox scandal, when 850,000 digital bitcoins simply disappeared from the popular bitcoin exchange (200,000 were later recovered), Titan says a physical bitcoin is more secure than an online account.
“The Titan Mint has created the digital equivalent of a Fort Knox, protecting the value of Titan Bitcoins in what the industry calls ‘Cold Storage,’ ” Titan’s website states. “This means that it’s simply impossible for internet criminals to steal the digital currency attached to Titan Bitcoins.”