Let’s talk about the paper wallet stigma.
They’re easy to lose. Easy to crumble. Easy to get shredded and eaten by a friendly dog. Easy to get wet, soaked, and ripped. Susceptible to the inadvertent spring cleaning throwaway. Flimsy. Just all around not advised to use.
But why not?
Haven’t all the wallet hacks and phishing attacks that we surface in the media happen online when your private keys are stored on a hot wallet? Haven’t all headlines of that early in investor having a hard time retrieving their crypto due to not remembering the pin # or passcode of an electronic hardware wallet? From the kinds of headlines of such stolen or lost crypto, wouldn’t one think that online hacks and attacks are a more imminent threat than physical attacks?
Let’s recap what a paper wallet is. In literal terms, it’s using good old fashioned paper to write down your private keys or mnemonic seed phrase. It is what was used in the early days of bitcoin to store your private keys in an offline manner, rather than saving it in a notepad file on your computer. Back then, to keep it offline, but within an easy and accessible known visible sight, you could just simply write it down. The caveman way of recording information. Sure it was a bit barbaric in a way, but it worked.
But there are downsides to them that paper wallet criticisers are quick to point out (as taken from Bitcoin Wiki):
- Printing is problematic
- Encouragement of centralized and outsourced validation
- Raw private keys are dangerous
- Change addresses are not handled which leads to screwups
- Encouragement of raw transactions
- Low error correction
- Inconsistent private key format
- Browser wallets are bad
Modern wallets have added more security in the form of more complexity. The wallet market is flooded with all sorts of fancy high-tech wallets that are techy in usage, and cool in its sleek form factor. Some have padded security with pin #’s or with an advanced EAL security standard. And don’t get us wrong, they are all great and have added to the innovation scale to crypto wallets. But even these same hardware wallets require their users to write down a mnemonic seed phrase on paper, which at times is even supplied in the same package with the hardware wallet.
But what is perplexing is the active disapproval of using paper wallets (You can read a full thread of people disputing the usage of them here). Humans make mistakes all the time. Cases of lost bitcoin/crypto happen with all sorts of wallets, not just with paper wallets. Hardware wallets, brain wallets, software wallets, mobile wallets, desktop wallets, and etc. have all had their fair share of mishaps. It would be ignorant to forget that there is NO golden standard for private key security. Everyone has their own level of achievable security in dealing with the safe storage of their private keys.
Being able to store a piece of paper with some random string of hexadecimals on it containing a large amount of value is a daunting move. But with special care, attention, and the wherewithal placed to it, it really could be a feasible option.
Heck, even having a paper wallet part of a notebook, or binder, or folded up and placed in a secret safebox would do the job in adding more robustness to that one single piece of paper.
Unfortunately, unlike many other electronic wallets, paper wallets haven’t evolved at the same rate. It’s been more or less stagnant, or may we say, “flat”. There have been many iterations of using the same concept of paper wallets but with a different material; i.e., plastic, metal, etc.
Now we do not fully support everyone to use paper wallets and we do recognize the risks in using paper wallets. But that’s not to say that there aren’t some competent users who are very comfortable with using paper wallets and still use to this day. They can be great methods in gifting bitcoins without touching the chain and can be great to give some physicality to the digital gold. If done correctly, being able to generate your private keys offline with the raw flipping of a coin to tally up a truly random entropy of 256 bits, then writing it down on a piece of paper or metal, and storing it in a secure location is a great way in practicing anonymity and avoiding reliance on third party applications. Going through the process of creating a paper wallet is also a great educational exercise in learning how bitcoin works.
But what if there was some other improvement to the concept of a “paper wallet”? What if there was an evolution to the paper wallet concept, that still upholds some of its characteristics, but with a more user friendly experience?
With Ballet, we’ve introduced a more advanced interactive paper wallet. Although the term “paper” in paper wallet is still used to characterize the wallet’s non-electronic characteristics, the Ballet wallet has enabled some added components necessary to make access to your bitcoins and crypto more accessible than the typical paper wallet.
Ballet wallets are all rooted in the robustness of stainless steel with your encrypted private key hidden and unrevealed underneath a tamper-evident component and its corresponding passphrase laser-etched with a scratch-off material covering it. A quick look up of your wallet’s assets simply come down to the scanning of the public address’ QR code which is conveniently printed on top.
The thing with paper wallets, and specifically Ballet wallets, is that it is water resistant, fire resistant, not prone to easy damage effects, nor prone to electronic components becoming obsolete. No need for firmware updates or pin # memorization. It’s just simply there.
This advanced interactive paper wallet can stand the test of time. Physical objects stand the test of time better than electronic devices. Although there is nothing wrong with electronic wallets and its technical advancements, but when it comes to the long term investment mindset, the physicality of being analog has the upper hand over digital.
Maybe it’s time for us to evolve our thinking around paper wallets. Don’t think of it just being your private key written down on a flimsy piece of paper. But rather think of it as your private keys on a far more superior robust material.
To take an excerpt from a satisfied user:
The tangible nature of the card along with it’s handsome stainless steel construction (a 24K gold-platted version also available) not only bridges the gap between the physical and the ethereal but also provides greater peace of mind with regards to secure storage. A flimsy self-printed paper wallet is easily swept away as trash without a second thought or victim to the elements of everyday life, given its fragility. The Ballet Wallet, in contrast, announces itself with a presence that can’t be ignored: “I am REAL. I am REAL and I EXIST with PURPOSE.”
So let’s not all together rule out paper wallets in its entirety. They may be an old fashioned way of storing private keys but one who thinks paper wallets are obsolete is unconsciously not taking into account the other benefits of paper wallets: gifting, education, long term storage, and etc. Even modern electronic hardware wallets require you to write down your backups on a piece of paper they give you in tandem with the hardware wallet.
Those same people shouldn’t also be blind to the fact that not every user is savvy with modern electronic hardware wallets. Everyone has their own level of achievable security and comfort in choosing a wallet that bodes well to their liking.
Ballet is a U.S. company that provides simple and secure cryptocurrency storage solutions for the global mainstream market. Ballet is the team behind the world’s first multi-currency, non-electronic, physical crypto wallet. The company was founded in 2019 by Bobby Lee and an international team of cryptocurrency industry veterans. Ballet is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States, and has an office in Shanghai, China.
For more on our products please check us out at: https://www.ballet.com/
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