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Why one man is giving away $8,000 in bitcoin this Christmas

Krystal Hu
Andy L. plans to send out 50 cards with 0.01 bitcoin inside each this Christmas.

When some lucky people in Detroit, Michigan open their colorful Christmas cards this season, instead of sweet handwritten notes, they’ll see a QR code and a random chain of letters and numbers. Andy L., a software engineer in his 30s, has made 50 Christmas cards for his family and friends, with 0.01 bitcoin inside each one.

Andy, who started to invest in bitcoin in 2011, has been thinking about giving out bitcoins as gifts for a while — but the timing worked out particularly well this year. As the price of bitcoin (BTC-USD) surges, the cryptocurrency has become more mainstream and thousands of new users have flooded into exchange platforms every day.

“I’ve made some money before, but now I’m just making what I call a stupid amount of money with bitcoin,” said Andy, who asked us not to use his last name over concerns that the IRS will charge capital gains on his bitcoin returns.

He says he at one point owned more than 100 bitcoins, and gradually sold half of them. “So being this generous with people whom we were giving gifts to already isn’t really a concern,” he said.

The gifts turned out to be more expensive than he expected. Andy made the plan in October, when 0.01 bitcoin was only worth about $50. When he finished the cards on December 10, the value of each card had surpassed $160 — making his Christmas bitcoin gifts worth $8,000. (At the time of writing, .01 bitcoin is up to $174.)

Andy says he became hesitant about giving the gift as the price kept flying, but he didn’t want to make the share even tinier, so he stuck with 0.01. “No one knows how much it’s going to be worth on Christmas,” he says. “Maybe $50, maybe $200.”

Those who will receive the “volatile” Christmas gift include a newborn baby, an 80-year-old great aunt, and his children’s school teacher. Most of the cards will be handed out on family gatherings during Christmas. Andy will also mail some out through USPS.

How to send digital currency on paper

Bitcoin is not a coin, but it can be stored in a paper wallet.

For those who are not familiar with the cryptocurrency, it may be confusing to hear that you could send someone a digital asset on a piece of paper. In the bitcoin world, people call these “paper wallets,” and it is the safest way to keep your access to your bitcoins secure. When you own bitcoins, you have a public wallet address and a private key (a string of numbers and letters). With both, you can gain access to your wallet from any computer and send or receive bitcoins. In other words: everything you need to access your coins can be written on paper.

Andy is planning to give a lecture on bitcoin after giving out the cards in the Chrismas party, as most of his family members don’t know much about it. His father-in-law thought it was too risky and refused to buy some from him at $7,000 per coin months ago. Andy even made a sample card to show how to set up a mobile wallet from the paper. He is keeping a copy of all the bitcoin addresses as a backup plan, since he worries about “the kids running around with bitcoin and losing it.”

Even though the bitcoin card could eventually be worth a lot, cryptocurrency isn’t the only present Andy purchased for Christmas. For his 3-year old niece, his wife bought an Elsa doll (from Disney’s “Frozen”) and a Barbie doll.

“I don’t want them thinking I’m just giving them this silly internet money,” he says.

Krystal Hu is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Send your story about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to krystalhu@oath.com

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