Can a Physical Bitcoin Ever be Equal Value?

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  • Physical Bitcoins of varying quality are widely available
  • Most are cheap novelty incarnations made from metal and worth only a few dollars
  • What would you need to make a physical Bitcoin that was actually worth the same as a real one?

We’ve all seen the physical Bitcoin coins for sale on Amazon and eBay, operating as novelty incarnations of the digital currency. Most of these are correctly valued at a few dollars given their low cost of materials and production, although some scam artists have tried to pretend they are the real thing in the past. This leads to the question of whether a physical representation of a Bitcoin could ever be worth the same as a real one, and if so, what would it look like?

It’s All About the Metal

Like almost any product you can name, the value of a physical Bitcoin comes down largely to what it’s made of. The cheap metal Bitcoins on Amazon and eBay sell for a few dollars each because that’s all they cost to make, whereas a Bitcoin made of precious metals would be worth much more – depending on how big it was of course.

At current prices, a solid gold physical Bitcoin for example would need to weigh about seven ounces in order to be as valuable as its digital counterpart (not including production costs), making it almost indistinguishable from the Amazon knock off both in terms of weight and size.


All Roads Lead to Rhodium

The best candidate for your physical Bitcoin however would be rhodium, one of the rarest metals on the planet, of which you would need a little over one ounce at current prices. This is about the weight of a pencil, and would result in a nice small coin.

If you can’t get hold of any rhodium you could also get away with making a physical Bitcoin out of palladium. This would weigh about the same as a baseball (five ounces) and would look like five regular coins stuck together, so it would be quite a meaty proposition.

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat

After these three your chances of making a reasonably sized physical Bitcoin of equal value go out of the window. Anything cheaper than gold and the coin is going to get bigger and bigger – for example, a solid silver Bitcoin will have to weigh over 580oz to be worth the same as the real thing, while the resultant coin would have an area of 2.6 square metres. Not really something you could take down to the shops.

This isn’t as bad as aluminium however, of which you would need about seven tonnes in order to make a physical Bitcoin that matched its value. That’s about two elephants’ worth, and you wouldn’t even be able to ride them around

With all this in mind, next time you complain about Bitcoin transaction prices, just think about shipping your seven tonne aluminum Bitcoin around with you and you might feel differently.