Cryptic Twitter account sparks hunt for hidden Bitcoin

sfhiddenbitcoin

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a new kind of gold hidden in the hills of this city: A mysterious Twitter account is leading locals on a treasure hunt for Bitcoin.

The folks behind @SFHiddenBitcoin, which has been active since July 1, are hot on the heels of @HiddenCash, the Twitter account that made news doling out the dough of a real estate mogul.

While judges debate whether Bitcoin is money and crashing economies around the globe fear the virtual currency’s wake, it’s the coin of the realm in certain circles here. If you can handle being a “cyphervegan,” you can basically already live on Bitcoin.

The Twitter-fueled Bitcoin treasure quest works much the same way as its cash equivalent. Every afternoon, an aluminum card with 0.033333 BTC (that’s a $20 bill plus change in greenbacks) gets planted somewhere in the city. The @SFHiddenBitcoin account posts photos and clues that point seekers toward the hidden treasure.

Although the photos are close-ups that show the types of details that could be pretty much anywhere (patches of dirt, sidewalk, a granite wall) and the clues are, ahem, cryptic (“Baskin Robbins counts it among its 31, but there’s no chocolate chips only fiat here”), savvy sleuths have found every single card.

I figured I would give it a shot Friday. I reckoned I had a decent shot at pinning down the spot: My brothers and I spent summers devising riddles and making maps for backyard treasure hunts, a pastime that has morphed into the seriously dorky pleasure of geocaching with my iPhone.

Hmm. Looking at the first clue-tweet of the afternoon, I’m already stumped: “Its first lover was the greatest, now it has the only one’s left alive.” The grammar makes my head hurt and I waste valuable time interpreting. Alas, @SFHiddenBitcoin has about four times as many followers as it did when I first checked the account, and they’re all probably doing the same thing I am. San Francisco has its share of love-related landmarks and yet the clue reminds me of a movie title, or a song I can’t put my finger on.

Before a second clue even goes out, the prowess of Dan Luk wins out. This guy is crazy-good: It’s his fourth straight find in the great Bitcoin scavenger hunt. He’s even been tweeting about seeing other people lurking around the same landmarks but not finding the hidden card (known as a “wallet” in Bitcoin parlance). Today’s win was at the Castro Theater – which happens to be showing vampire flick The Only Lovers Left Alive.

What’s his strategy? Via Twitter direct message, he tells me it’s a combination of “luck, Google Maps and a trusty bicycle.” He’s been keeping an eye on Bitcoin since mid-2013 and got some after the crash from Coinbase.

What does he plan to do with the Bitcoin booty he found?

While he says he will hold on to his previously acquired bit-stash long-term, he says he’ll “maybe give these nifty wallets from @sfhiddenbitcoin to friends to introduce them to the technology.”

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Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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