Eating Crypto Crow

I’m reminiscing on a post I wrote in the fall of 2017 savoring the gains I made buying my Bitcoin at $3,900. In hindsight it seems arrogant, so I feel compelled to disclose that in the winter of 2018 I bought another Bitcoin but at closer to $12,000.

If you follow crypto prices, you’ll sympathize how I saw that $12,000 as a huge “dip” from the December 2017 high of almost $20,000. You’ll also recognize that this wasn’t a dip at all, but a downward slide that hasn’t yet recovered. In spring 2018, prices fell to a little under $6,000 – HALF of what I paid. Currently, Bitcoin is around $9,000, which puts my second purchase at a significant loss.

Do I regret buying that second Bitcoin? I do wish I waited to see how far it would drop before I committed. I still would have spent $12,000 but I would have gotten 2 instead of just 1. In my defense, during the pre-Christmas valuation climb, prices increased so rapidly I was conditioned to believe if you wait, you lose out. I have since un-conditioned myself from that belief.

Some credible financial analysts predict Bitcoin’s value will drop to zero (“MIT“, and “Former PayPal CEO Bill Harris“). Other equally credible financial analysts predict Bitcoin is on the precipice of skyrocketing – doubling or tripling the value of my second bitcoin (“Hedge Fund Manager John Pfeffer” and “Comcast VC Bullish on BTC”).

Obviously I hope the optimists are right. Only time will tell if the crow I’m eating today the last meal before my profit dreams die, or but a garnish on a delicious platter of future profits. Whichever direction it goes, I’ll post about it.

 

Great Analysis of Bitcoin Price Crash

There’s no shortage of bloggers’ opinions on trends in Bitcoin (or any crypto) prices. I am a fan of Mark E Jeftovic’s Guerrilla Capitalism  blog. His post from Feb 7, 2018 about Bitcoin’s “Trough of Disillusionment” I found well researched, comprehensible, and highly enlightening.

It discusses the pattern of Bitcoin’s seemingly wild and allegedly “unpredictable” price fluctuations. The author’s thesis is that these fluctuations are not “unpredictable” at all, and in fact follow a fairly established pattern known as the “Hype Cycle” which can be depicted as:

This analysis helps clarify the price movements and (I think) provides comfort that things are not spinning out of control, they are just following a natural course of behavior. And to continue to hold on for the Slope of Enlightenment to reach the desired destination: Plateau of Productivity.

Investaweb Quotes Me as a Bitcoin Expert

On December 14, the Website Investaweb.com quoted me in an article “20+ Experts about Bitcoin: Should You Buy into the Hype? (Part 1)“. I’m the second expert in their list of experts. I was interviewed in October for this article and typically financial articles go to press immediately. I didn’t realize there would be so much time between being interviewed and being published, so the prices I discuss don’t make sense. I didn’t see the article until January 29 so the prices really didn’t make sense. But I’m still tickled to be quoted as an expert.

Buying a Hardware Wallet

The excruciating (but mercifully temporary) inability to log into my cryptocurrency exchange illuminated my need for a hardware wallet to safely store my beloved bitcoin and alt coins. Phone-based wallets exist, but considering the sketchy places I’ve trolled on my phone, it seems a security risk. The safest place to store cryptocurrency is OFFLINE, and that means an unplugged hardware wallet.

A hardware wallet is basically a flash drive. But unlike cheap USB sticks handed out freely at tradeshows and conferences, hardware wallets are more durable and most have additional security features.  The most celebrated hardware wallets by nerds in the know are Trezor, Keepkey, and Ledger Nano S.

These three wallets don’t have an operating system, which means they can’t harbor malware. Apparently, they are safe to use even on a computer that DOES have malware. That’s especially important because you may not even know you have malware.

These three wallets have a Liquid Crystal Display screen which also improves security and makes them easier to use. Apparently wallets without LCD screens rely on inputting information into your computer which is sent to the wallet. If your computer is compromised with malware, the information could be stolen and never make it into your wallet.

Physical buttons on the wallet also let you securely navigate the interface – that means, to make selections and enter passwords. Apparently this is a big security bonus because someone who may be controlling your computer remotely is not able to control physical buttons, and therefore cannot control your hardware wallet (i.e. steal from it). From what I read, it appears the Ledger Nano S and Trezor have physical buttons but the Keepkey does not.

Something to note is NOT ALL WALLETS ACCEPT ALL CRYPTOCURRENCIES. And if you’ve read my earliest posts, you’ll know I have a somewhat diverse portfolio. KeepKey won’t support my Bitcoin Cash, ZCash, Ripple or Monero. Trezor won’t support my Ripple or Monero.  Ledger Nano S is the only wallet supporting Ripple but won’t support Monero (what’s up with no wallets supporting Monero??).

KeepKey not supporting 4 of my cryptocurrencies and lacking physical buttons eliminated it as a possibility. That leaves Trezor and Ledger Nano S.

Ledger Nano S appears to support all my cryptocurrencies except Monero. Bloggers enthuse about Ledger Nano S’s sleek design but I don’t plan to display it. In fact, I plan to hide it.

I did read something about Nano S only holding 3 currencies at a time, which is confusing. The more I read, the more confused I get. Apparently you can load a currency onto Nano S, then erase it and load another, then erase it, until all of your currencies are loaded but only a few can remain on the stick. I also read that the value doesn’t actually RESIDE on the wallet device, which is also hard to comprehend. The idea of ERASING my digital currency freaks me out. I guess I’ll have to buy a Nano S and try it to see for myself. Maybe I really do need to buy a Trezor wallet too so I don’t have to erase anything from the Nano S.

Bloggers encourage purchasing hardware wallets from Amazon.com and rarely discuss buying from the manufacturer’s Website. I suspect Amazon covertly sponsors many blogs.  The trouble with Amazon is the wide price variance for identical products. And many of the vendors have bad ratings, or no ratings, or sell other non-crypto and even non-tech items, which seems unseemly. If I’m buying a device to protect assets worth thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands?) of dollars, I need to believe I’m buying something legitimate.

On Amazon, the Trezor wallet price varies from $99 to $145 – sometimes from the same vendor!  A black version is $99, a white version is $94.99 and a grey version is $145. I can’t imagine anyone would care enough about the color of something so few people would see.  Upon closer inspection it seems like the grey one with the higher price comes with the USB cable, box, and instruction manual, which could account for the $44 difference.

Some vendors accurately identify the Trezor Wallet’s manufacturer as Satoshi Labs. But one vendor says it’s manufactured by Mom Made Foods. WTF?? I need more confidence in my purveyor of crypto security than that. According to many bloggers, you MUST check if your hardware wallet arrives FACTORY SEALED to ensure someone didn’t compromise it. If it doesn’t come factory sealed, you should send it back and get a refund. Also, don’t buy a used wallet.

Amazon has fewer vendors of the Ledger Nano S, but still a wide and confusing mix of prices and product offerings. Some bundle the wallet with a bunch of (seemingly unnecessary) accessories like a carrying case, lanyard, USB cable, Micro USB adapter, and even a ball point pen for almost $150. Some offer just the Ledger Nano S (no cable, no manual) for as low as $72. Personally, I want a manual, and I’m willing to pay extra for it, but I don’t want to buy a bunch of stuff I don’t need. Unfortunately, I don’t know what is necessary and what is superfluous. I’m also concerned that some of the accessories may be after-market and not as durable as the wallet. I don’t want a cable to fail when I’m transferring my digital currency.

It’s not that I don’t trust vendors on Amazon, I don’t trust people in general and prefer to buy directly from the manufacturer. I’m confident the wallet manufacturers will sell what I need: If I need a cable, they will provide an approved cable. If I need a manual, they will provide a manual.

Although I prefer buying directly from the manufacturer, both Trezor and Ledger are overseas and priced in Euros. They both accept payment in Bitcoin which, ironically, I won’t spend because its value keeps appreciating. If Bitcoin’s value was more static, I would enjoy avoiding my credit card’s infuriating foreign currency transaction fees.

In addition to Bitcoin, Trezor’s Website accepts credit cards, while Ledger’s Website accepts credit cards and PayPal.  Both Websites warn their prices do not include taxes and duties. I loathe imagining the hassle of coordinating my  schedule with the delivery guy to write a check for the import tariff. I also wasn’t sure where I put my seldom-used checkbook. Buying from Amazon would be so much more convenient. But that nagging voice in my head (which I’ve regretted ignoring in the past) won me over.  My distrust of online merchants supersedes my lust for convenience.

I decided to buy only one to see how nightmarish the overseas delivery would be. I chose Ledger because it gave 2 non-Bitcoin payment options, and the Ledger Nano S is compatible with 7 of my 8 cryptocurrencies. I wanted to see if I could in fact store them all together on the one stick or if there really was a 3 currency limit. If I could store them all, I wouldn’t need to buy another wallet. If it truly did limit to only 3 currencies, I would store my Ripple, Bitcoin, and Bitcoin Cash onto the Ledger S, and I would buy the Trezor wallet to store my Ethereum, Dash, Litecoin, and ZCash.

I first tried using my credit card on the Ledger site, but the online overseas transaction triggered a security block. So I tried the PayPal option (using the same blocked credit card) and it succeeded. This seemed illogical but I was glad it worked. A confirmation email claimed I would receive my Ledger Nano S in 3 days.  Of course these 3 days fell within the Thanksgiving holiday, complicating calculations of its expected arrival (i.e. when to work at home).  The following Monday I was shocked to see it arrived without any attempt to collect taxes, tariffs or duties. I felt stupid for expecting aggravations.

That night I bought the Trezor wallet from the Trezor Website. The Trezor Website doesn’t accept PayPal, so I first called my credit card company for permission to use my card for an online overseas transaction. The transaction worked, and a confirmation email said to expect my Trezor wallet to arrive in 3 to 5 business days by DHL. I’ve never had a good experience receiving shipments from DHL but I hoped for the best, given the success of my Ledger Nano S purchase.

Four days later, a DHL email announced my package’s scheduled arrival by end of day. I was already at work and considered going home to await the delivery, expecting to write a customs/duty check. When I got home I was shocked to see the package arrived without a request for customs or duty. So it seems if you’re in the continental US purchasing from the Ledger or Trezor Website, you can ignore the stern warning about taxes/tariffs/duties.

Now I’ve got to unpack these wallets. I hope setting them up is as effortless as buying and receiving them.

Barron’s Reads My Blog?

The highly respected weekly financial newspaper Barron’s published a great article “Bitcoin Storms Wall Street” by Avi Salzman on Dec 2, 2017.

This exhaustive, analytical, and well researched article quotes hedge fund managers, derivatives experts, Goldman Sachs analysts and appears to paraphrase one of my blog posts.

The 39th paragraph of this Barron’s article discusses the risks of trading cash-settled Bitcoin futures and uses the SAME ANALOGY I USED COMPARING BITCOIN TO FRIENDSTER! I would like to point out I published my blog post on November 28 (5 days BEFORE the Barron’s article published).

Here’s what I published on Nov 28, 2017: “Bitcoin may have been the first, but it may not be the long term winner.  Do you wish you invested in Facebook? Its IPO was around $32 and today it’s $180. You could have quintupled your money. But before Facebook was MySpace. And before MySpace was Friendster. Friendster was first – do you remember Friendster? Exactly. If you put your money on Friendster, you would have lost. Maybe Bitcoin is Friendster or MySpace. Maybe an altcoin will be the next gold standard and Bitcoin will be the next generation’s punchline.”

Here’s what Barrons published Dec 2, 2017: “A danger is that Bitcoin could end up being the Friendster of the crypto world, while the Facebook – the real winner – may still be in development somewhere.”

Does Avi Salzman read my blog? I am flattered (but a credit or even a heads up would have been nice). If anyone finds other articles that closely resemble what I wrote, please let me know, I find these things gratifying.

Why I Need A Hardware Wallet

Two things recently happened that compel me to search for a cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet. First, I recently discovered all of my cryptocurrency investments are WAY above their purchase price. Second, I was unable to log into my Kraken exchange account.

I’ve never had a problem logging into Kraken before. I figured I must have fat-fingered a digit. I carefully guided my index finger for a second attempt.  When this also failed, I double-checked my hand written note to confirm the login and password. It’s been a few weeks since my last login, so maybe I misremembered my login or password. When that third attempt failed, I felt sick, fearing the worst.

Reaching Kraken’s customer support from OUTSIDE of your account is almost impossible. The Customer Service link sits on the trading dashboard AFTER YOU LOG IN. I tried www.kraken.com/help and got a 404 Error. I tried https://www.kraken.com/help and got a 520 Error. I tried the extensions /CustomerService and /CustomerSupport without success. I googled “Kraken Customer Support” and found a link on Reddit. I clicked that link and logged a generic “locked out of my account” request for help. Within a few hours an email arrived requesting more detailed information to confirm I am the rightful owner of said account. This gave me pause.

The email looked exactly like other messages I’ve received from Kraken customer support when they assisted me with various issues. But panic consumed me: Could this be a clever hacker cloaking themselves to look like legitimate Customer Support? I attempted several more times to log into my account unassisted, but without success. I miserably relented and submitted my vital stats to this seemingly benevolent stranger.

For 3 sleepless nights, I imagined someone effortlessly draining my account. Kraken’s customer support email finally arrived, claiming they have no record of my log in attempts. This seemed impossible and did nothing to relieve my stress. After a momentary mental meltdown, I thought to re-examine the Post-It note harboring my Kraken login and password. I realized I could be misreading one character. I tried another login which succeeded – and I confirmed my portfolio remained as I left it several weeks ago.

Seriously, what IS stopping unscrupulous online pirates from posting fake Customer Support links on a community sites to spoof support emails until they have the info to access your account and steal your coins? How long before you realize you were scammed?

This motivated me to get my crypto portfolio off of the World Wide Hackers Buffet and into a hardware wallet where it can reside in peace and prosperity offline.

Googling “hardware wallet” yields countless blog reviews about the same 3 hardware wallets: TREZOR, Keepkey, and Ledger Nano S. At this point, I must confess my skepticism of bloggers. First I’m damn sure they did not buy these items, they were furnished by the manufacturers. I’m also sure they get paid to say nice things about the products they “review” (i.e. promote) so their opinions are not fully objective. Second, it appears most Bitcoin bloggers either ARE or WERE tech professionals – so what they find “easy” will befuddle a civilian like me.

Now I’m going to research these 3 hardware wallets to decide which best fits my needs before I succumb to paranoid exhaustion.

I’m So High

Three weeks ago I lamented the poor performance of my Monero, Dash, Ethereum, and Bitcoin Cash holdings.  You can read my pity party here. Currently, all of my alt coins – and especially the 4 that I was bellyaching about – are above my purchase price. WAY above.

  • Ethereum: Appreciated 75%
  • Litecoin: Appreciated 75%
  • DASH: Appreciated 90%
  • Monero: Appreciated 95%
  • ZCash: Appreciated 85%
  • Ripple: Appreciated 60%
  • Bitcoin: Appreciated 230%
  • Bitcoin Cash: Appreciated 300%

Obviously I no longer regret buying when I did (but kick myself for buying only 1), and am grateful that I got in before this recent surge while I could still afford it. I never expected prices to get so high so quickly. I’ve followed some crypto analysts over the last few years and their predictions have either been exactly right or pretty close. In fact, this spring Cointelegraph.com reported Bitcoin reaching $10K by the end of this year and that prediction looks like it will become true in the next 24 hours.  The new forecast is Bitcoin reaching $40K by the end of 2018.

If you’re getting priced out of Bitcoin, consider buying into the alt coins. Their prices are still under $1000 and you can see they are appreciating aggressively. Keep in mind: Bitcoin may have been the first, but it may not be the long term winner.  Do you wish you invested in Facebook? Its IPO was priced around $32 and today it’s $180. You could have quintupled your money. But before Facebook was MySpace. And before MySpace was Friendster. Friendster was first – do you remember Friendster? Exactly. If you put your money on Friendster, you would have lost. Maybe Bitcoin is Friendster or MySpace. Maybe an alt coin will be the next gold standard and Bitcoin will be the next generation’s punchline.

You may want to buy into cryptocurrencies now before prices soar higher. You may anticipate a market “correction” and wait to buy when prices drop. The moral of this story is to get in when you can, and hold on with the belief that the value will increase.