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The E-Sylum (4/14/2013)

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Several readers sent in items on BitCoin this week. We covered the topic a couple years ago when they first hit the scene (see the below links to E-Sylum articles in May and October 2011). In the interim they hit the big time, culminating in a huge price run-up (and bust) in recent weeks. -Editor

Numismatic literature dealer John H. Burns forwarded this New York Times article. Thanks.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have been many things in a short time: Olympic rowers. Nemeses of Mark Zuckerberg. Characters on "The Simpsons." Now they can add a new label: bitcoin moguls.

The 31-year-old identical twins have amassed since last summer what appears to be one of the single largest portfolios of the online currency that has caused such a stir in financial and technology circles.

An array of speculators have now bid up the price of the bitcoin to the point where the outstanding supply of the digital money was worth $1.3 billion at last count. The Winklevii—as they are popularly known—say they own nearly 1 percent of that, or some $11 million.

The decision by the brothers to go public with their position signals a new stage for what has been an experimental alternative to national currencies. Created in 2009 by a programmer or programmers known only by a pseudonym, the bitcoin world has been dominated by anonymous programmers and traders.

Now mainstream investments in the digital money are starting to emerge. On Thursday, a group of venture capitalists, including Andreessen Horowitz, announced that they were funding a bitcoin-related company, OpenCoin.

To read the complete article, see: As Big Investors Emerge, Bitcoin Gets Ready for its Close-Up (

Kavan Ratnatunga writes:

Digital currency - another numismatic curiosity. I don't fully understand how it works, but IMHO the bubble will burst someday soon.

Kavan provided links to multiple articles. Thanks! -Editor

To read the complete article, see: Digital Gold Rush: The Bitcoin Boom and Its Many Risks (

To read the complete article, see: How to buy and sell Bitcoins -- Part 1: Theory (

To read the complete article, see: How to buy and sell Bitcoins -- Part 2: Practical (

Some of the recent volatility in the value of the BitCoin is due to the actions of computer hackers. They can't break the security codes that define the currency, but they have been able to hobble the BitCoin exchange servers with distributed denial of service attacks (ddos) - basically, they use a bunch of other computers to send messages to the BitCoin servers, loading them down with too much traffic to handle. -Editor

"The Bitcoin-to-USD exchange rate had been climbing steadily since January 2013, from around 30 USD to over 250 USD only 24 hours ago. Now, the value bubble seems to have burst, at least partially. The primary trading site MtGox reported a drop in value all the way down to 140 USD today, a loss of almost half in real value. With many sites unreachable or slow, there are also news of a possible DDoS attack on MtGox: 'Attackers wait until the price of Bitcoins reaches a certain value, sell, destabilize the exchange, wait for everybody to panic-sell their Bitcoins, wait for the price to drop to a certain amount, then stop the attack and start buying as much as they can. Repeat this two or three times like we saw over the past few days and they profit.'"

To read the complete article, see: BitCoin Value Collapses, Possibly Due To DDoS (


To read the complete article, see: Bitcoin Is Crashing (

John Burns writes:

Now THIS is numismatic....I'm not really sure what they mean though.

The article mentions the physical tokens someone began manufacturing to correspond one-one with the virtual currency. I've never seen one, but they're out there. -Editor

With $600 stuffed in one pocket and a smartphone tucked in the other, Patricio Fink recently struck the kind of deal that's feeding the rise of a new kind of money — a virtual currency whose oscillations have pulled geeks and speculators alike through stomach-churning highs and lows.

The Argentine software developer was dealing in bitcoins — getting an injection of the cybercurrency in exchange for a wad of real greenbacks he handed to a pair of Australian tourists in a Buenos Aires Starbucks. The visitors wanted spending money at black market rates without the risk of getting roughed up in one of the Argentine capital's black market exchanges. Fink wanted to pad his electronic wallet.

In the safety of the coffee shop, the tourists transferred Fink their bitcoins through an app on their smartphone and walked away with the cash.

"It's something that is new," said Fink, 24, who described the deal to The Associated Press over Skype. "And it's working."

It's transactions like these — up to 70,000 of them each day over the past month — that have propelled bitcoins from the world of Internet oddities to the cusp of mainstream use, a remarkable breakthrough for a currency which made its online debut only four years ago. When they first began pinging across the Internet, bitcoins could buy you almost nothing. Now, there's almost nothing bitcoins can't buy. From hard drugs to hard currency, songs to survival gear, cars to consumer goods, retailers are rushing to welcome the virtual currency whose unofficial symbol is a dollar-like, double-barred B.

BitCoin token maker Caldwell

One Bitcoin supporter with a unique perspective on the boom might be Mike Caldwell, a 35-year-old software engineer based in suburban Utah. Caldwell is unusual insofar as he mints physical versions of bitcoins at his residence, cranking out thousands of homemade tokens with codes protected by tamper-proof holographic seals — a retro-futuristic kind of prepaid cash.

Caldwell acknowledges that the physical coins were intended as novelty items, minted for the benefit of people "who had a hard time grasping a virtual coin."

But that hasn't held back business. Caldwell said he'd minted between 16,000 and 17,000 coins in the year and a half that he's been in business. Demand is so intense he recently announced he was accepting clients by invitation only.

Some may wonder whether Caldwell's coins will one day be among the few physical reminders of an expensive fad that evaporated into the electronic ether — perhaps the result of a breakdown in its electronic architecture, or maybe after a crackdown by government regulators.

When asked, Caldwell acknowledged that bitcoin might be in for a bumpy ride. But he drew the analogy between the peer-to-peer currency enthusiasts who hope to shake the finance world in the 2010s with the generation of peer-to-peer movie swappers who challenged the entertainment industry's business model in the 2000s.

"Movie pirates always win the long game against Hollywood," he said. "Bitcoin works the same way."

Dick Johnson writes:

Bitcoins made news this week. I read the Associated Press Report, and a Wall Street Journal article on the subject, but did not grasp the full concept from either article.

It wasn't until I went to Wikipedia to learn the full extent of Bitcoins and cybercurency. Would you believe Wikipedia listed 122 references on the subject? It hadn't been on my radar screen, thus my lack of knowledge.

I would like to know are there Bitcoin collectors? Is there a Bitcoin Red Book? Are there Bitcoin Societies (BS)? I am sure there is a BSer out there who could enlighten me more on these new collectibles.

Inquiring minds would like to know

Physical BitCoins

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see: BITCOIN: ANOTHER ONLINE CURRENCY (

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