In my search for physical Bitcoins, I ran across the Bitcoin Specie coin. It is a 1oz .999 silver coin that does not have any Bitcoin value. It has a QR code that takes you to a webpage to give you the current value in several different currencies starting with Bitcoin. This whole concept is to promote Bitcoin and get coins in peoples’s hands they will use and carry around with them.
I brought mine to the Inside Bitcoins Conference in NYC on April 7-8. I had several comments on it, and all were positive.
Matthew Carson of Minersource.net thinks it is a great idea and an excellent way to promote Bitcoin.
HolyScott of the BitcoinTalk forum said I like the fact that the coin still has the precious metals silver value, so regardless of tomorrow’s bitcoin market, it still has value. Also, glad that it is not a loaded coin, and you do not have to worry about money laundering legalities.
I had many more comments and people liked it a ton at the Conference.
The Bitcoin Specie is so interesting I contacted the creator Joseph of NewLibertyDollar.com
He is a very interesting man who is working hard to promote Bitcoin. One little bit of our conversation struck me as so inspiring and helped me understand him more.
I will start with that and then into the interview.
The goal is for circulating pieces rather than just collectors items, so this “problem” is sort of an incentive to do that.
As a child, I was fascinated by coins, and spend many hours a day playing with my coin collection. I especially liked the worn down ones because I would research where in the world the coin had been made and would makeup stories of the things folks had used them for in exchange. Some of these fantasies were very lengthy and would go for many transactions. I did not have a lot of toys as a child, and my favorite were my coins. A great deal of creative energies went into imagining these stories, and they encouraged an early interest in the many cultures of the world and world history which was a bit uncommon among my childhood peers. It is one of the main goals of the project to make pieces that will circulate over the years ahead of us.
Could you tell me about the Bitcoin Specie coin, how you came up with the concept and a bit about what it took to bring it to fruition?
Specie is a word that has fallen out of use, it means precious metal coin. The word has fallen out of use likely because of the fact that the object that the word represents has also tragically fallen out of use. No national currency makes any meaningful specie pieces anymore. Countries have not minted circulating gold and silver for decades now, just collector pieces.
I’ve wanted to do a bitcoin piece for quite a while but didn’t think there was enough interest in Bitcoin to support a high quality high circulation minting. It was not until the spring of 2013 at the Bitcoin Foundations’ conference in San Francisco that I was challenged to do so in a conversation after the days event that I seriously considered it. As it turns out, I was right, there aren’t enough people yet to support a meaningful circulation of specie, but the numbers have been steadily growing, and the project is committed to persisting. We are using the same equipment to produce these that the best Mints in the world use. These machines can make many hundreds of pieces per minute, and the circulation for the 2013 run was only 3000. That is not much. The collectors who managed to get one should probably consider themselves pretty lucky, we surpassed that in 2014 by our February mintings.
As with any new design, it starts on the drawing board. With the Bitcoin Specie, we decided to undertake a fairly ambitious set of goals. One of the problems was piece valuation. With the volatility of both precious metals and bitcoin in 2013, any valuation we would put on the pieces would be very far off pretty swiftly. Many ideas were considered and discarded before we arrived at what became the final design. Implanted chips, near field, all sorts of things that weren’t very practical were discussed with some of the top coin makers in the world today.
Most all of the design elements that comprise the piece came from the bitcoin community. Having engaged bitcoin folks in various ways over time, when we came across some something that seemed to capture an essential part of bitcoin, we looked for a way to work it into the piece. There is some subtle humor to the design, as well. We wanted to keep to our motto of “Make Money, Do Good, Have Fun” so there is a bit of fun incorporated, and maybe a little mystery.
With the Bitcoin Specie coin you have created a coin that brings attention to Bitcoin, how do you feel it’s been received and what other plans do you have along with the next in the series of coins?
I am delighted by any attention the Specie brings to Bitcoin itself. There are still today a lot more people that value silver and gold then there are people that value bitcoin. Most folks around the world, today, would rather have silver and gold than they would like to have bitcoin. Many bitcoiners are the flip side of that and would rather have bitcoin, so these specie pieces are currently fundamentally an outreach item. They serve to bring attention to Bitcoin, as you say.
Later the hope of the project is that they take on a more functional role, and they were designed with such capabilities to make that possible, as a medium of exchange.
Bitcoin people are highly individual, and tend to be smarter, and more attractive than the average person but also tend to be more judgmental and to evaluate than average. And so we have received a lot of criticism for doing this and, the criticism is welcomed. People can learn a lot from our critics, I know I do, which is why I seek them out and look to understand the criticism and whether it has merit.
Normally I would ask about your personal website for sales and such but in this case you have lined up vendors to sell the Bitcoin Specie coin. What kind of challenges have you had with that as some companies are very interested in Bitcoin and others do not like it or fear it?
That is a great question. There are quite a few people in the precious metal space that mock bitcoin, and lots of bitcoiners think that precious metal money is passe and outdated. Oddly they agree with Ben Bernanke on that. There are even bitcoin defamatory silver pieces produced by other coin-makers. This could be due to a common mental failing of the excluded middle path, which many people fall prey to, where they see “the other” as competition and something to fight against, when the right path may simply be combining the two together, and recognizing the benefits of both. I am a big fan of both.
This mutually beneficial relationship is especially true of Bitcoin and Precious Metals. Each of these has a very complimentary set of assets and together makeup a very large set of usefulness. Bitcoin is ideal for a long distance transaction but less so at point of same, where you have to get out your gadgets and really can’t wait for sufficient confirmations if there is a line of folks at the check out counter.
Precious metal money is costly and difficult to transact over distances with shipping and security costs being paramount, but is simple and easy at point of sale, and even more anonymous than either paper cash (with its serializations) or bitcoin. With gold and silver you can convey quite a bit of value very simply and quickly in person.
Here are a couple links to verified sellers of the Bitcoin Specie.
How has Bitcoin changed your life?
Bitcoin has made me happier. The sense of personal empowerment and creativity it engenders is exciting and enriching. Bitcoin makes doing business easier and more fun; the freedom and swiftness of using it has made the bullion business much easier to execute. Without bitcoin if someone wants a real-time price for bullion, they need to use a real time payment method such as going to a bank and depositing cash. Now my customers can execute the same transaction from the comfort of their home or office.
Math, especially cryptography and code are things I have always enjoyed working with, and I get a kind of philosophical delight from solving problems, so I have some personally rewarding enjoyment from working with Bitcoin. The people I have met working in bitcoin almost without exception tend to be more interesting and exciting, and I look forward to each gathering of bitcoin people with some excitement.
Do you have anything specific you would like to say or add?
It may be good to list the Bitcoin Specie Project goals, so people have a good idea of what we are attempting to accomplish:
1. Create a durable and attractive specie for Bitcoin.
2. Enable everyone with the ability to Back Bitcoin in hard physical assets. Making Bitcoin be the only global currency with a distributed decentralized hard asset bank.
3. Make a pocket-friendly piece, for easy daily carry as pocket change.
4. Create pieces to be useful for trade at point of sale without worry about, or waiting for confirmations.
5. Low-priced intrinsically-valuable high production volume high quality piece that would be numismaticly attractive exonumia.
6. Avoid pulling any bitcoins out of useful circulation in the block chain.
7. Provide swift, accurate, and authoritative, current valuation to accommodate the volatility of both precious metal and bitcoin.
8. Support total fungibility. Each piece should be alike and no uniqueness.
9. Support a definitive unit of account, defined by the free market.
10. Provide a bridge to non-bitcoin users so that the bitcoin economy may expand.
11. Globally attractive, non-national piece engendering peaceful prosperity through a common trade unit.
12. Distribute with volume based discounts to engender an organic distribution network compensation as a service to wholesale buyers’ and local communities.
13. Provide better value for money than was offered by the specie of nations of old and support the capability of conversion to any currency, crypto or fiat, globally.
What kind of trouble have you had with counterfeiters copying the Bitcoin Specie coin and what effect has it had on your sales?
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I don’t really feel flattered so much as ashamed for our industry and offended. That people try to sell counterfeits saddens me because it cheapens the quality of the industry unnecessarily. I have so many ideas and designs that have not yet been made, if these counterfeiters wanted to make a lot more money I could easily give them some other things to make. It is also illegal in many jurisdictions. I often see people selling the silver-plated fakes using pictures of the real thing on their website or eBay page which is deceptive and wrong. I definitely recommend getting yours from one of the more noteworthy resellers. They do a great job, fast, and reliable service and you are guaranteed to get one of the real things 99.9% silver.
I’ve seen the counterfeits, and how they are shipped the packaging is worth more than the counterfeits (they use a lot of packaging).
The Bitcoin Specie coin is a great coin to add to your collection, and they have value that transcends Bitcoin or even silver. It is a truly inspirational coin, and I am glad to have interviewed the man who came up with the concept and brought to life.