Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

5 April 2013

I love money. Not in a cigar-smoking Gordon Gecko way, and certainly not because I have lots of it. Let me explain.

Much of the world media has dedicated serious airtime and ink to an inkless currency borne out of thin air: Bitcoin. You've likely heard of it, and may even own some. It's virtual currency, encrypted and amorphous, a flash of electrons in a server or a cloud; not exactly money in the traditional sense. Hardly any journalists understand just how, exactly, the thing works, and I won't pretend to be a member of the enlightened few, but here's the quick take: no one’s quite in charge of the system, they're used to buy things online, and they're not really all that new. The recent obsession over Bitcoin is based on crazy price swings and a heightened fear of banks and governments.

Which, to an extent, makes sense. With virtual money there are no bank runs. There is, in fact, no bank. But for a good many people, a currency that's unfoldable and intangible, one that's located in bits and bobs in wires in an underground server halfway across the world, now that's the really terrifying thing. A bill you can't wad up in rubber bands and shove in the sock drawer should the proper occasion arise leads to anxiety, for the paranoid, for the nutters, and for those who fear the corruption of kleptocrats.

But also for lovers of paper and metal. What about the texture? The odour? What about the fun? Let's pretend the digital cash revolution is nigh and paper stocks are on the way out. Here’s what I’ll miss:

Goodbye, American dollar, and thanks for not making a fuss when I broke you and mended you with tape and then quickly passed you off at the first store I saw.

Goodbye, wall-mounted US state quarter displays and the retirees and 12-year-olds who search sidewalk cracks for shiny objects with flat peaches and planes.

Farewell, 5 Swiss Franc coin, you impossibly enormous silver saucer. You confused me when I met you, and you continue to amuse by your size. And see ya, colourful Corbusier, and all of your bright banknote friends.

I’ll miss you, British pound coin, for being heavy enough to feel valuable, and valuable enough to carry, yet still managing to annoy me when returning with dozens of you in my pocket after a fuzzy night out. You were only 30. Stay strong, my nickel-brass alloy friend.

And finally, to the abundant British penny, laying dormant in piggy banks and long-forgotten mason jars, we both knew this wasn't working out. It's not you, it's me. There are so many fish in the sea, right? Who am I kidding...I hate you.

Where do I sign up for some Bitcoins?

Daniel Giacopelli is Associate Producer for Monocle 24

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