Paper Money

Casascius, Titan physical bitcoins give numismatic identity

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.”

Titan’s bitcoins cover several values — tenth bitcoin, half bitcoin, and 1 bitcoin — and feature several designs, all of which contain the inscription UNUM PECUNIAE, which from Latin roughly translates to, “One currency for all.” Obverse portraits on Titan coins include those of messenger-god Mercury, a roaring lion, and a Greco-Roman warrior.

The 2014 Titan One Gold piece is struck from 31.1 grams of 99.9 percent pure gold and the equivalent of 1 bitcoin. It was priced on Titan’s website on July 1 at $2,444. A 2013 Titan One Silver piece, struck from 31.1 grams of 99.9 percent pure silver and also containing 1 bitcoin, was listed at $869. A 2013 Titan One piece is also available on the website, for $729; it is made of a copper-nickel alloy known as “Goldine” for its resemblance to gold. 

Each Titan physical bitcoin comes with an “air-tight polycarbonate coin preservation case and a signed and numbered certificate of authenticity.”

Micro Soul, meanwhile, provides little information about the firm’s physical bitcoins, other than the value of each one — £442 for one, £824 for two, and so on. The website features several photos, but provides no information regarding the materials that make up the coin. 

Gaining in use

Those who think virtual currency is just a fad that will come and go may want to rethink their position. Bitcoin has been all over the news lately, often for inroads it is making into our day-to-day lives:

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill repealing an earlier provision that prohibited the use of any non-U.S. currency for commercial activity, according to Reuters. The new regulation clears the way for virtual currency purchases that had previously been outlawed in the state.
  • Auctioned off over a 12-hour period on June 27 was a 29,000-bitcoin “hoard” seized by the U.S. Marshals Service during a 2013 raid on the Silk Road online market after its owner was charged with several crimes including drug trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering, according to the BBC. The completed sell-off realized approximately $18.7 million.
  • Online booking service Expedia is now allowing users to pay for hotel accommodations with bitcoins, according to Yahoo! Finance.
  • The New York Times reports that King’s College in New York is accepting bitcoins as tuition payments.
  • ?Apple has made available several bitcoin-wallet apps that it had pulled from the App Store earlier this year, writes Rob Wile of Business Insider. The bitcoin wallet apps have always been made available to users of Google’s Android platform.
  • ?Bitcoins have a college football bowl game: Bitcoin integration company BitPay announced on June 18 that it had a deal with ESPN Events to become the St. Petersburg Bowl’s title sponsor. The college football postseason game will be known as the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl beginning in 2014. “Our goal is to make it the largest and most exciting bitcoin event ever produced,” BitPay co-founder and CEO Tony Gallipi wrote in a blog post on the company’s website. The game will be played on Dec. 26.

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