Do your own research!
Try out searching for "lost bitcoins", "stole my money" or "scammers" together with the wallet's name, even if you think the wallet is generally trustworthy. For all the bigger wallets you will find accusations. Make sure you understand why they were made and if you are comfortable with the provider's reaction.
What is a bearer token?
Bearer tokens are meant to be passed on from one user to another similar to cash or a banking check. Unlike hardware wallets, this comes with an enormous "supply chain" risk if the token gets handed from user to user anonymously - all bearer past and present have plausible deniability if the funds move. We used to categorize bearer tokens as hardware wallets, but decided that they deserved an altogether different category. Generally, bearer tokens have these attributes:
- secure initial setup
- tamper evidence
- balance check without revealing private keys
- small size
- low unit price
- either of ...
- somebody has a backup and needs to be trusted
- nobody has a backup and funds are destroyed if the token is lost/damaged
The Analysis ¶
Alitin Mint coins were a limited edition of physical bitcoins. Here is some information about the product from the archived official site:
These pieces are a combination of physical bitcoin, pure bullion, and limited edition art pieces by presidential sculptor, John B. Andelin. We are continuing to take physical bitcoins to the next level! Each coin is personally signed by the artist and sealed in a tamper proof casing. Each coin is also embedded with physical bitcoin, with private key engraved on the edge, out of view unless sealed case is broken.
An external site called Coin Community had a short page concerning these coins, mentioning how there was a transaction that “moved nearly 36 bitcoin from 18 Adam Smith coins.” Here is a link to the transaction. This event took place on February 26, 2017. Shortly afterward, Alitin Mint reopened its website and made a notice concerning the missing BTC. Here is their thread discussing the matter on BitcoinTalk.
Although the coins were placed in a “tamper-proof casing,” the keys were prefilled and engraved on the edge of the coin. Users could seal the coin away in a secure place, but they wouldn’t be able to know if the provider had taken a copy beforehand.
The website is now unavailable and it is unlikely that the coins will be in production again. As such, we can conclude it is defunct.
The device gets delivered with private keys as defined by the provider!
As part of our Methodology, we ask:Are the keys never shared with the provider? If not, we tag it Provided Keys!
The best hardware wallet cannot guarantee that the provider deleted the keys if the private keys were put onto the device by them in the first place.
There is no way of knowing if the provider took a copy in the process. If they did, all funds controlled by those devices are potentially also under the control of the provider and could be moved out of the client’s control at any time at the provider’s discretion.
But we also ask:Is the product still supported by the still existing provider? If not, we tag it Defunct!
Discontinued products or worse, products of providers that are not active anymore, are problematic, especially if they were not formerly reproducible and well audited to be self-custodial following open standards. If the provider hasn’t answered inquiries for a year but their server is still running or similar circumstances might get this verdict, too.
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