Wednesday, January 10, 2018


I'm no expert, just a pathetic newbie, trying to navigate the muddy, gator-infested stream of Cryptocurrency. In the beginning, I read and read, created several wallets, watched 10,000 ads and answered ten or twelve surveys in order to collect five or ten cents worth of "coin" from some then-functioning faucet, deposited it to a wallet, and felt rather proud of myself. I read a lot more, finally decided that a $50 gamble wouldn't kill me; and, deciding that Coinbase was newbie safe (in spite of the so-called high fees and lack of anonymity), I not the bullet and opened an account. Signing up was easy, and I quickly linked my checking account, waited the agonizing week or so, and made my first official Bitcoin purchase. Need I tell you how excitedly I watched the daily, nay, even hourly, rate changes? Finally, I let it lie for a year or so, checking occasionally.

Then Coinbase required Authy for 2FA. Fine, I signed up for Authy. I was still using a landline at that time, but it all worked.

My first big snafu came when Coinbase decided that landlines would no longer work for 2FA. Fine, I switched to cell for SMS notifications--not my first choice, but it had to be.

Not long after, Coinbase decided SMS was not secure. Fine, I switched to Authy, but Authy was somehow connected with my landline.

I did something in the wrong order, and was unable to log into my Coinbase account, while I wrangled with Authy and Coinbase Customer-Service reps to get my 2FA/phone-verification mess straightened out. Authy reps were human. Coinbase used bots. Authy got it fixed, though I whipped them a couple of sharp opinions during the process. But I'm back in my Coinbase account, though I don't dare change my phone number or email, for fear of the same mess.

Terribly spooked, I withdrew almost all my currency, exchanging to good old US dollars and putting it safely into my checking account. I also let Authy know that tech companies which handle people's mony and bank accounts should offer alternate identity-verification choices, including traditional ones, such as Notary Public oaths. I left a few bucks in Coinbase, 'cause, what the hell... a five-buck lotto ticket, etcetera. I patted myself on the back for having made a few bucks, and still having a few spare bucks invested.

Barely a month later, Authy app began to return a phishing alert when I select my Coinbase account. Smart-Aleck techies on forums blasted Authy and suggested switching to Google Authentication, but I didn't dare make a change for fear of being locked out of Coinbase and/or Authy.

I investigated the various exchanges all the crypto-wiseguys were raving about, but found problems with each one: one wouldn't accept US residents, one was too complicated, one wouldn't allow small trades (a requirement of mine, since I want to use smallish amounts when testing new wallets on new exchanges). So, I stuck with Coinbase, while ogling other exchanges with envy.

Bitcoin had flatlined at about $800-$900, and got so boring, I didn't even check Coinbase for ages. Then one day I saw a news article, checked my account, and was pleasantly surprised. Over the next few weeks I watched the NYC rate climb to $3,000 per coin. I suspected a bubble, but knew it could shoot even higher. I thought it would, "eventually," but I thought it would probably crash first and stagger along for a few years before rising. I saw that some "experts" agreed with me, so again, I converted most to cash. Alas, I had spooked too soon. Bitcoin climbed to $12,000. I bought more at a loss (regretting that I could've been a few thousand dollars richer had I waited a month to sell).

I'd also had to agonize for over a week while my cash travelled from bank to Coinbase. I wanted to make instant buys. My next big snafu came when I tried to add a credit card to Coinbase. It will not verify. Seems Coinbase makes two little deposits, but Visa combines the amounts to one. Coinbase won't verify with the combined amount, and Visa statement will not show the separate amounts. Visa CS blames Coinbase; Coinbase CS blames Visa, and my card won't verify. (My driver's license won't verify, either. Coinbase's verification process is a muddled mess, and Customer Service the re is practically non-existent). Keep in mind, I've lived in one place for about 30 years, had the same solid, stationary, highly traceable landline, had the same bank account, and been (at one time) a Notary Public. And I can't get verified by a damned little start-up that has existed for less time than our current stash of toilet paper. Well, maybe a bit longer than that, but... Do you see the problem here?

All that aside...

Except for the phishing alerts, all had become fairly stable, I'd made decent little profits, and I decided that I probably shouldn't be linking a credit card anyway (being an impulse buyer and a semi-poor person). Besides, I now learned, I could place some money in a Coinbase USD wallet and make instant buys that way. So I did.

I made another small deposit into Coinbase, waited till prices were down a bit (though higher than before the failed-verification snafu). I even ventured into other coin: Litecoin and Ethereum. I experimented with creating paper wallets and third-party app wallets, and sent a bit of coin to them. I gave a tiny amount of Bitcoin to my niece, so she could study crypto. The $2-$5 fees, I put down to the learning curve: a reasonable cost for real-time experimentation and learning, and a lot cheaper than that $400 Crypto Cash Crash Course I saw advertised localky; man, that guy will be able to buy some major crypto, if he has many takers.

Coinbase announced that it wouldn't support the upcoming Bitcoin Cash fork. I barely understood that, and from the few articles I read on BCH, I wasn't impressed; so I did nothing. Come the divide, nothing changed. I was fine. Later, I was pleasantly surprised when Coinbase agreed to support BCH technology, opened me a wallet, and gave me $30 or $40 USD worth of coin. But that got me to thinking (how I could've missed out), so I read up on forks. So, I moved most of my Bitcoin to a paper wallet.

Now, keep in mind, I'm dealing with amounts of coin so small, I see snarky wiseguys on Reddit snickering about such newbie trades, the same way a guy will snicker over another guy's tiny little penis. So I don't post on forums, I just read 'em.

I wanted to buy something new and cheap, but Coinbase only offers a few coin types. I'd failed to find another exchange that worked for me. Then I found Bitsane. Bitsane won't sell to US clients for fiat currency, but will allow crypto-coin exchanges.

I opened an account. I struggled with the interface, but managed to open a Litecoin wallet.

I would try to choose LTE to Ripple, but every time, Bitsane would switch it back. I thought I probably needed to open a wallet and deposit some coin first--a fearful thing, since I couldn't seem to make the exchange work. But I reminds myself, All my existing coin is still from that original dividend, and it's subsequent growth, plus the "fork" bonus. Found money, to me!

So, I opened an LTC wallet, went to Coinbase, and sent a little Litecoin. Coinbase's app kept "sending" forever, so I finally closed it, speculating on three possible outcomes: Twilight Zone (lost Litecoin); failed transaction (refunded Litecoin); or successful transaction. Bitsane still showed empty wallets, but Coinbase, once reopened, showed a pending transaction, with two confirmations; so I guessed the Litecoin would soon appear in my Bitsane wallet, and it did.

Now Bitsane showed a loaded LTE wallet. Now I opened an XRP wallet, and attempted to make a trade. Bitsane still switched the exchange buttons. It looked backward to me, with "Buy" (LTC) on the left side (blue button), and "Sell" (XRP) on the right side (gold button). But in between was a non-descript little text "XRP," with a field to enter amounts. I inquired that I should put my LTE amount in the box and hit "Buy." I'm dealing small amounts on both sides of the coin, so if I did it backward, it would either fail, or I' s lose, maybe $20-$30 bucks to misplaced coin and exchange fees.

Now, if you know crypto and are good at exchanging them, you'll laugh at me for what I did next. Some digital amounts were underneath the "Buy" and "Sell" buttons. I'm used to the Easy Button on Coinbase, where I enter a very familiar USD amount and buy how ever much coin I can get for the fiat amount I know I'm spending (less fees, of course). So, these fractional amounts in decimal form on the Bitsane buttons were Greek to me. So I just copied the amount from the LTC side into the middle box for XRP -- something like 0.1455 -- and I hit the blue LTC "Buy" button. Lo and behold, it went through!

I immediately checked my wallets. I now had some LTC and someXRP, so I was a semi-happy camper, but with no idea how much of either coin I owned. I closed Bitsane and used a coin converter, but was still unsure. So I went back to Bitsane, deciding to spend the rest of my Litecoin. I followed the same process, but this time, it failed. The middle box said "Minimal Amount 5." I'm looking at the LTC box, and I don't have "5." I don't even have a whole number, just a fraction of coin, a 0.009-something. And oddly, the XRP yellow button shows a similar figure. I have no idea what I have or what to do.

So, I tried random figures in the middle (currency/XRP) field. I put "1" and both buttons showed a change of figures. But underneath them, both sides showed the same figure, something like 13 or 19, and I don't recall of the decimal was before or after. (I'm now guessing that figure tells me it's a one-to-one unit exchange--but I don't know if that's what it means).

So then I tried "5," and the corresponding amounts on the buttons still looked miniscule. So I tried a whopping 4500, and hit "Buy," and it quickly said, "You don't have enough--want to make a depisit?" (paraphrasing).

So now I thought I had some idea, that I could probably buy maybe 10-20 Ripple for the amount of Litecoin I was willing to spend on an experiment. I went back to the wallets, memorized the decimal amounts, went to the converter, figured out the Litecoin I had left in that one wallet, and went back to the exchange. I entered a whole-dollar amount (between 10-20) in the XRP currency field, and hit the blue "Buy" button, and it worked. I now had approximately the desired amounts in both wallets. I didn't try to calculate my remaining Lifeline to the penny, knowing it'll come and go with the market, anyway.

Now, it's my bad that I probably spent $10-$20 (or who knows how much) in fees to exchange less than $50 of Litecoin for some Ripple, and some will call it a fool's errand to trade "good" Litecoin for "bad"(or iffy) Ripple, but I'm proud to be the first of my personal acquaintances to own Bitcoin and Ethereum and Litecoin and Ripple (albeit in laughably small amounts, at current rates); and to have purchased them on two different exchanges, one of which is most definitely not for us newbies!

And all this, I did at a small profit, considering the amounts of my initial fiat deposits and withdrawals. Yes, any expert could have done twice as much with less than half the fees...

But I'm no expert.

First published on Little Scraps of Paper, my catchall blog for reminders. Moved here, as best fitting the stone age to technology age theme...