Sports Fan Gets $20k in Donations After Waving Bitcoin Sign on ESPN

Jon Southurst
Dec 1, 2013 at 21:20 UTC
Updated Sep 10, 2014 at 13:23 UTC
NEWS

In the latest news from bitcoin’s “Why didn’t I think of that first?” department: one lucky college football fan has reportedly received over $20,000 in donations simply for putting his bitcoin wallet address up for the cameras on ESPN’s College Gameday.

Holding up “Hi Mom Send Money” signs at college sports events isn’t new, but this fan went a few steps further, replacing ‘money’ with a large bitcoin logo and even larger QR code of his payment address. He even used a vanity address generator to insert the characters ‘HiMoM’ near the beginning of the address for authenticity.

A QR code is like a barcode that is used by merchants and individuals to accept bitcoin payments. The square image is translated into the 27-34 alphanumeric characters that make up a bitcoin address when scanned.

Bitcoiners, who never met a QR code they didn’t try to scan, saw the sign on TV and almost immediately began to send donations. When someone posted a screenshot to reddit, even more began to donate with helpful users enhancing the image and even posting the address string itself. Donations skyrocketed after that. At the time of writing, that address had received 103 contributions and over 22 BTC, well over $20,000 despite a dip in bitcoin’s value. A few donations were large, equaling $4,000-5,000 each.

Screenshot of the Collehe Gameday background, where college students regularly hold up football-related signs. Source: Business Insider

Screenshot of the College Gameday background, where college students regularly hold up football-related signs. Source: Business Insider

Reddit user bitcoinpitcher2 claimed responsibility for the stunt, saying: “I didn’t expect it to take off like this.”

He apparently proved the claim to doubters by posting a photo of the sign with another ‘Honey Badger of Money’ one with handwriting referencing the reddit thread. Though he appeared to have a good background in bitcoin knowledge, he wrote he was “still learning how to use bitcoins” and like many other suddenly-wealthy bitcoin users, needed fast advice on how to keep wallets secure. Reddit users soon obliged with helpful hints.

Using a slightly different username, the he also posted this to reddit four days before the game:

I’m planning on being at ESPN’s college gameday show in Auburn, AL this Saturday. I want to see if I can get a creative bitcoin related sign past security (they might have an issue with a QR code if I go that route). Any ideas? I thought this one was ok: “HI MOM, SEND BITCOINS!”

After the amount topped 2 BTC, bitcoinpitcher2 promised to re-donate further funds to bitcoin-accepting Florida homeless shelter Sean’s Outpost and a fellow reddit user who accelerated donations by enhancing the QR code. He expressed some concern, however, about the effect the windfall would have on his taxable income.

He wrote:

“(I’m) not a bitcoin millionaire. I read about bitcoins on Slashdot couple years back, did nothing. April 2013 bubble had me take a second look. Bought a bitcoin in July for $101 to get my feet wet and see what all the talk was about. Watched it grow rapidly and thought about the sign as a joke not thinking it would work.

DanielTaylor from Europe used GIMP to decode the blurry image. He’s getting a tip to an address he PM’ed me. I’ll be making a donation to Sean’s Outpost as soon as I can work out all the tax implications. Hopefully before Monday when the matching offer ends. In the mean time, someone told me I need to learn how to use Electrum. That’s next on my radar.”

He admitted donations probably increased after he promised further funds would go to charity, adding later: “I think the big money rolled in because I said that. Now it will go to a good cause.”

Early bitcoin miners and pre-2013 adopters aside, many people could use an extra $20,000 right now — especially those attending college. The public could now see a flood of bitcoin QR codes in public places as others try to emulate the college student.

Like Alex Tew’s Million Dollar Homepage, it’s an idea that will probably spawn imitators but only be truly effective the first time. Bitcoin and reddit users are known to be generous in the interests of spreading the digital currency word, but there won’t be thousands of dollars for everyone who asks publicly.

Then again, it’s another perfect free advertisement for bitcoin itself. Whenever something like this gains widespread publicity, others sit up and take notice how quickly and simply an account was able to receive large amounts of money from hundreds of contributors, without paying anything in bank or transfer fees.

Image credit: Rob Hainer / Shutterstock.com

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