It's graduation season! If someone you know is getting ready to or just did celebrate the completion of their degree or the end of their current school year, you may be looking for a gift to mark the occasion. While cards and cash gifts are very common, we have actually received inquiries at Athena into how to give the gift of crypto in recognition of a student's scholarly achievements. This is a great idea! The gift of bitcoin or other cryptocurrency can be intended as a short-term reward or as a longer-term endowment to set up your loved one's future.
But, how do you do this both safely and in an appealing form?
Below we'll discuss options that will work in a variety of situations and gift-giving occasions. Note that we cannot guarantee the functionality or safety of any external website mentioned below.
Ways to give Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies:
Regular network transactions (works for any amount)
If your recipient already has a wallet and you know their address, well then you don't need this guide! ;) Problem is: You usually don't know an address that is valid for the recipient unless you ask them for one, which is undesirable. If your family member is already big into Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency then this may be acceptable.
Paper Vouchers ($1-$500):
BCTip.org is a way to create tip vouchers for bitcoin that automatically expire after a set time and return the bitcoin to you if they are not redeemed. You can either print out or electronically send the tips. I'm a big fan of the BCTip project, which has been running since 2013! BCTip vouchers can be created in one of several dollar denominations with custom messages and several designs. The only disadvantage is that you must create at least 5 at a time (but you could redeem the extras yourself, split the total gift amount, or give away the extra vouchers). There is no cost to use BCTip.org except for the mining fees.
CryptoTip.org is a code fork of BCTip that intends to expand support to other cryptocurrencies. It has started with the Dash currency for now with a colorful design and more flexible amount and quantity options. As with BCTip, CryptoTip features customizable messages and the ability to email or electronically communicate your gifts in place of paper tickets!
Paper Wallets (any amount, but inexperienced users should keep it relatively small):
Creative tips for paper vouchers and wallets:
Much like physical dollar bills, paper crypto wallets and tip vouchers can be placed inside cards, money puzzle boxes, balloons, jars, tissue boxes, calendars, and other fun presentation options.
The traditional paper wallet is simply a Bitcoin (or another coin's) public and private key either printed or written down on a piece of paper (or potentially plastic or metal). It is one of the first ways you might think to give a physical crypto gift. Advantages of paper wallets over the vouchers above is support for more types of cryptocurrencies, such as Litecoin, Ethereum, and Bitcoin Cash; as well as more ways to generate one. The main disadvantage is no automatic refund system: If the paper wallet is lost, damaged, or never redeemed, then whatever was loaded onto it becomes inaccessible. Since we should only be dealing with smaller amounts, the risk of loss should be acceptable.
Below we'll present some sites that can help you generate paper wallets. I would disconnect from the internet after loading one of these sites but before generating the first address/key combination. Then, once you are done printing, reboot your computer before reconnecting to the internet. You should test creating, filling, and redeeming a paper wallet for yourself before giving one as a gift.
The granddaddy of paper wallet sites. In operation since 2011. Bitcoin-only.
This is a very flexible site with good instructions, helping you create paper wallets for Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash (legacy-type), Dash, Litecoin, Zcash (transparent), and many others.
An address generator for the Monero currency, though without a paper wallet printout design.
A beautifully designed, smart, and very flexible site for creating paper wallets with optional password encryption and key-splitting. Works for a wide variety of coins. I don't know if it has been thoroughly audited, however.
OpenDime (any amount, though not good for long-term storage)
Another fascinating project! The OpenDime is the first Bitcoin "bearer stick" or specialized USB device that provably generates and protects a private key on its own. Once you use it to create and load an address, you can hand it over to anyone you like. The recipient can then open the stick to move the bitcoin into a standard wallet. OpenDime is great for making real-world transactions off-chain with no internet required or for giving bitcoin gifts! The stick will guide you through a short setup process then present you with a standard Bitcoin address. You can load it or redeem it using any PC, phone, or tablet and Bitcoin wallet.
Since it's impossible to make a backup of an OpenDime stick, however, you only want to use it for short or medium-term storage and transfer. Don't lose it!
Physical Bitcoins (small to medium amounts)
What happens if you take a paper wallet private key and stick it on a coin? Why a physical bitcoin, of course! Casacius was the first to release these in 2011, examples of which today can be worth more in collector's value than the bitcoin held by the coin! Manufacturers have come and gone over the years with a few still in operation today. A common problem with these items is having to trust the creator not to keep a copy of the private key, which is why these are better used for gift amounts unless you know what you're doing.
Hardware Wallets (any amount but especially larger ones)
Are you serious about your crypto gift giving? There may be no better choice than a hardware wallet! Being a full wallet on a physical device and capable of supporting a wide range of cryptocurrencies, you will be providing your recipient with first-class security and usability for everyday needs.
If you want to go this route, it will probably be best just to gift the physical device itself in an unopened state. Don't plan to load it with crypto first (though you can pair it with one of the options above). While transferring a loaded hardware wallet is possible, you will need to convey the written backups and PIN as well. These the recipient should, ideally, create new versions of on their own anyway, so this will make transfers more complicated than they need to be.
You might, instead, give the unopened hardware wallet along with a message that you're willing to send them some crypto as soon as they setup the wallet and provide you with their new address.
We have an Introduction to hardware wallets that may be useful as well.