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Renaissance Dad: Bitcoins and Beanie Babies


25 BTC Casascius Gold Round with $10k in fiat currency by Gage Skidmore
Whereby Jon Kile explains crypto to his kids, except maybe not.
Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A while back, Gulfport became famous for being the home of the first home sale conducted via cryptocurrency. As I sit down to write this, I’ve watched several short videos aimed at helping my young children understand “crypto.” I’d like to say that it’s part of our homeschooling curriculum, but sadly, it’s because I’ve read dozens and dozens of articles explaining bitcoin, and I still don’t really understand it. I only have a degree in economics, so it’s understandable that this might be hard for me.

Oh, I get that it’s decentralized money. And I know there are warehouses full of computers in rural America “mining” bitcoin by “solving math problems” and using so much electricity that lakes are boiling. (What the computers are doing cannot be explained in the English language.) I understand that it’s completely anonymous, impossible to steal, and apparently quite easy to lose. There was a guy in Scotland who threw out an old laptop forgetting that he’d once mined some then-worthless bitcoin — today worth about $150 million. Now he’s literally trying to get the municipality to let him mine the dump for his lost bitcoin. Pretty sure I can’t get a cent for solving the daily Wordle.

I’ve had long conversations with a local cryptocurrency guru in which we both leave frustrated. He says people agree bitcoin has value, and that’s why it has value. I said, “It sounds like Beanie Babies,” hearkening to the day when specific stuffed toys were supposedly in demand and more valuable. He conceded, “Yes, it’s like Beanie Babies, but it’s not going to go away.”

And just as soon as I accepted the fact that my kids are going to have to handle my bitcoin investments for me, the Crypto Nerds started talking about NFTs. I went to an article explaining NFTs for beginners and it said, “Non-fungible tokens are digital assets that contain identifying information recorded in smart contracts.”

Oh! Why didn’t you just say so? Digital assets! Smart contracts! It’s like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and we’re all just nodding our heads at this stuff. Except people are getting rich and poor — and then rich and poor again — and I’m missing the roller coaster ride.

As I understand it, NFTs are a digital way to assign ownership of some asset – usually, but not always, digital. Like, I could send you a PDF of this issue of The Gabber with an NFT and you’d have the “original” digital issue — as original as the Mona Lisa. All other PDFs of The Gabber would be like posters from the Louvre Museum gift shop.

Why am I even writing about this? I could say that, as a parent, it’s important for us to teach our kids financial literacy. But I resent that the only path to getting bitcoin (other than buying it like a dumb investor) is to have giant computers solving complicated math problems. I’ve written about plants, and people have emailed, offering me plants. I’ve written stories about peanuts, and readers have offered me peanuts. I’ve written about brick pavers, and yes, I’ve been offered pavers. So now, I’m relying on the computing power of my fingers and my laptop for someone to give me one measly bitcoin (sure, it’s worth $21,000, but that can’t last).

I promise not to lose it.

A man in a pink shirt
Jon Kile writes for The Gabber, but – thankfully – not a cryptocurrency column.
Abby Baker

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Read More: Renaissance Dad: Bitcoins and Beanie Babies

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