If baseball cards were money

This is how I might explain Bitcoin to a teenager.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is the Chief Revenue Officer of The Bitcoin Way and host of The Bitcoin Way Podcast.

Imagine a world where we use baseball cards as money, but let’s keep it simple. Suppose that there are only two types of cards: the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card, among the most valuable and of which only a few thousand were ever made, and the rest are just generic cards of miscellaneous players throughout the years, no one more valuable or rare than the rest.

No new ‘52 Mantle cards can be produced, but billions or trillions of these generic cards are printed each year.

Instead of a paycheck or a welfare check, employers and the government hand out packs of baseball cards as compensation and all you get are generic cards.

And as more of these cards are made, each card becomes worth less and less for this reason:

Let’s say you and your friend both want to buy the same house, worth 200,000 generic baseball cards: right at the top end of what each of you can afford. But then let’s say another trillion cards are printed and you and your friend each get a 20,000 handout of these new cards.

You might each now be willing to pay 220,000 cards for this house because of the sudden windfall. You see, the value of the home didn’t really go up; the house is still in the same shape it was before and you aren’t willing to give up more value for it. The value of your cards just went down and you’re only willing to give up more easily acquired cards that you happened upon.

But let’s say you had one of those ultra-rare Mickey Mantle cards. At first, people might not appreciate their value because they are used to using generic baseball cards as money.

But over time, folks begin to realize how rare these Mantle cards are. As more and more people begin to appreciate what scarcity means - that no more Mantle cards can be printed and sent into circulation - they recognize their worth because they can never be diluted in an ocean of Mickey Mantle cards.

Mantle cards begin to accumulate real value. It might take 10,000, 20,000, or 70,000 generic cards to reach the value of just one Mantle card. And the more generic cards are printed and lose value, the more enticing these Mantle cards become.

Truly, the sky is the limit for the value of Mickey Mantle cards. A single Mantle card might be enough to afford a nice home - or even multiple nice homes! - in the future, particularly as the generic cards most commonly used become worth less and less.

But the magic of the scarce Mickey Mantle cards doesn’t stop there. Because they are so rare, owners of Mantle cards think long and hard before parting ways with their valuable asset. They question all of their purchasing decisions in a fundamental way - “Do I really need a house that big?” or “Can I make it another 10,000 miles in my current car?” or “Can we cut back on some of the unnecessary junk in our lives?” They’d do anything to avoid parting ways with their Mantle card unless it is really, really worth it. The spell of consumerism is broken for these folks.

You see, having a very scarce baseball card changes you because the opportunity cost of buying “stuff” is no longer generic baseball cards that lose value with time, but rather a rare card that is ever-increasing in value.

Your dollars, Euros, or whatever national fiat currency you are using are like generic baseball cards that are readily printed for any need - to buy votes, to fund endless wars with infinte money, to bail out large corporations at the expense of the average person, and so on.

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is like the absolutely finite 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card. It continues to grow in value amid a flood of generic cards whose “value” continue to melt away.

If you can understand why you’d hold onto a 1952 Mickey Mantle, you might also begin understand why you’d want to hold onto some Bitcoin, too.

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