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2.1 Quadrillion Satoshis

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Date Minted: January 14, 2020

Artist Description: Inspired by the Zimbabwe 100 trillion dollar bill, this artwork is 100% created from scratch in illustrator. Design elements include a stack of blocks representing the blockchain technology bitcoin is based on, bitcoin genesis block code, a bear and bull to symbolize forces at play by market participants, the satoshi icon mask, & some discreet messages about bitcoin.

In 2009, Zimbabwe issued a 100 Trillion dollar note. This happens when governments print money to pay for things. Bitcoin fixes this with a limited supply of 21 million Bitcoins, or 2.1 quadrillion Satoshis. Although now effectively worthless, the Irony is that the 100 Trillion Zimbabwe note has value as a collector's item... a monumental example of why central banking and fiat currency make the world a worse place. Choose ₿etter money.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

2.1 Quadrillion Satoshis, or, in other words, 21 million Bitcoin, is the finite amount of Bitcoin that can exist in the world. After that, they stop being produced, putting a final and tangible end to Bitcoin mining, and, theoretically, safeguarding against the infinite inflation possible with traditional Fiat currency, which can be printed at will. Satoshi is the lone denomination of Bitcoin, equaling 100-million Satoshis per Bitcoin. Thus, 100-million Satoshis multiplied by the 21 million hard-cap Bitcoins, and we arrive at the art piece we have before us, Lucho Poletti’s statement on Bitcoin and Fiat, on world economics, on the value of money as something inherent or as something almost ironic. 2.1 Quadrillion Satoshis is quintessential crypto art, completely submerged in the cryptocurrency world and self-referential almost to a fault. Irreverent, creative, and explicative, 2.1 Quadrillion Satoshis isn’t coy with its desire to be deeply read into.

Fortunately for us, Poletti is completely forthcoming with the physical and commentative aspects of the piece. For example, Poletti says in no uncertain detail that the physical design of the piece is inspired by Zimbabwe’s infamous 100-Trillion-Dollar Bill. That’s no typo, but instead the result of an unstable government’s out-of-control inflation. Zimbabwe gave up on using their own currency, including the aforementioned note, as of 2006, opting instead for a mishmash of more stable international currencies —USD, Chinese Yen, South African Rand among them— so now the currency, at one point legal tender, has gone on to a second life as a collector’s item. That inherent lack of value in fiat currency, when beholden to the stability of a government —in Poletti’s estimation a dissociative and dangerous connection— is the underlying propellant of 2.1 Quadrillion Satoshis, presented here as a single dollar bill worth the combined amount of every bitcoin in existence. At the time of this writing, that’d be about 1-trillion-155-billion dollars.

The concept is preposterous, but less so than a government minting a 100-hundred-trillion dollar bill? About a hundredth as preposterous. The tension there, between criticism of bitcoin for its perceived lack of value (how many times have you heard cryptocurrencies and NFTs being called Ponzi or pyramid schemes?) and its inherent anti-inflationary metrics, is heavily-implied by this association. Poletti, however, is firmly in Bitcoin’s camp. This is the ethos of most of Poletti’s work, the self-styled Bitcoin Artist spreading the gospel of cryptocurrency wherever they go. In this case, that gospel takes the form of tacit references to Bitcoin sprinkled throughout the dollar bill representing it. “The currency of the internet” stretches like a banner across the top of the dollar, and central within it is the phrase “I promise to remember, there will never be more than--” followed by the denomination of currency here, “2.1 Quadrillion Satoshis” followed by, “for people of all countries, worldwide.” Bears and bulls are the foundation for a “stack of blocks representing blockchain technology,” in the very center of the piece. Along the left edge and in the lower-right corner is a shared reference to the Genesis date of the first Bitcoin block, 01/03/2009. Elsewhere are references to Satoshi Nakamoto (Bitcoin’s creator) and his personalized Guy Fawkes mask avatar, displayed here as a currency watermark. “Purchasing power determined by markets,” it says below the mask. “Independent of Government and Political parties.” 

That last point is particularly important, because integral in this piece is a quiet ridicule of federal governments, and especially of their effect on money. The common refrain heard against Bitcoin is that it’s dangerous, without fundamental value, an unregulated currency without a central bank to back it up. Most Bitcoin enthusiasts would argue that this is, at best, a deleterious look at the thing, and playing right into the hands of federal governments whose hegemony over worldwide finance is threatened by, for the first time, there being a legitimate challenger to their financial dominance. But Bitcoin’s existence outside of any central financial system is its strength, one which safeguards its value against the individual wobbling of governments, thus making it more reflective of global sentiment than of a single country’s capricious stability. The mockery here takes the hifalutin, very proper language normalized on currency, at least English-speaking currency, and subverts it using its own characteristics. All the various aspects of fiat currency —the signatures of Treasury Executives, the watermarks, the serial codes, all traditionally used as techniques to surveil and control the flow of money— are here turned towards the single-minded goal of aggrandizing Bitcoin. 

This kind of irreverence towards traditional financial systems has grown exponentially, following the same rise as Bitcoin, since the global financial crisis in 2008 eroded a significant amount of trust in the global banking system. It’s often felt, but hardly ever captured as fully as in 2.1 Quadrillion Satoshis. But this physical representation of Bitcoin is significant for another reason, and that is in the way it appears to both legitimize and belittle Bitcoin itself. Societally, we do have an ingrained desire to hold currency. “Cash is King,” and so on and so forth, conjuring images of Scrooge McDuck swimming in bathtubs of gold doubloons. Bitcoin is difficult for many to understand because of its inherently non fungibility. Without form, it can be broken down into infinitesimal pieces instead of preset allotments of 1, 5, 10, 20, 100, etc. But physicalizing it here, while drawing it closer in parallel to traditional fiat, seems to emphasize an underlyingly comedic aspect about Bitcoin, that, yes, it is a serious challenger to Fiat currency, but that it’s also kind of a joke, or that there are irreverent cultural aspects central to its being. If it continues to be adopted further and further, it would be the first financial system with a sense of humor. And if that’s a challenge to any established financial hierarchy. Bitcoin is a symbol in its own right, with its own lexicon and value system.