My friend gave me a bitcoin. Now what?

Use this crypto-currency to fund ambitious projects

So you’ve got yourself a bitcoin. Congratulations! Its value was hovering around $100 at press time. But what can you do with your newly acquired digital riches? Quite a lot, as it turns out—especially if you have a penchant for projects.

More and more vendors who cater to makers accept bitcoin, a digital currency that’s created and maintained by its own extensive virtual network. Bitcoins add little or nothing to overhead because they carry no inherent processing fees and can’t be traced. This translates to savings on tools and materials for projects., for example, will 3-D–print custom designs for prices the company claims are about 20 percent cheaper than its competitors’. offers a wide variety of electronic parts, such as Arduino microcontrollers, power supplies, and cameras. Go to for a list of other sites that take part in the blossoming mini economy, including virtual marketplaces like, where bitcoin owners can independently buy and sell items from one another.

Want a bit more coin? Success isn’t easy, but all you need to mine the currency is a computer that’s properly configured to help anonymously secure and verify others’ bitcoin transactions (for a great guide on mining, see If your computer miner pays for itself, then you can start saving up for all your geekiest workshop desires.

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Popular Science.