Steel wallets have become the standard for crypto seed storage security.
If you are storing your own Bitcoin or crypto seed phrase, a steel/metal wallet is a must-have.
In this article, we’ll cover:
Hardware wallets like the Ledger Nano X and Trezor T are popular because they offer a much more secure way to store your Bitcoins or Ethereum than the software wallets you get from crypto exchanges, like a Coinbase wallet.
The downside of hardware wallets is that you can lose all your Bitcoins if you accidentally break or misplace your Bitcoin wallet – or it gets stolen.
That’s where the seed phrase comes in.
It’s a combination of random words that enable you to access your Bitcoins on the blockchain in case you lose access to your hardware wallet.
But private keys and seed phrases can also be a major security risk.
Enter the cryptocurrency steel wallet.
A metal wallet is another cold storage wallet that securely backs up the recovery phrase (another word for private keys and seed phrases) to your other hardware wallets so you never lose access to your Bitcoins.
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You could just write down your private key or seed phrase on a piece of paper and store it in a safe place. But that makes it no more secure than a paper wallet – and that is risky business.
Most steel wallets, on the other hand, are resistant to pretty much any physical threat or natural disaster.
Some examples of threats steel wallets protect your seed from include:
That makes steel wallets almost indestructible. Some manufacturers even go so far as to make videos where they try (and fail) to break them.
Now that you know how steel wallets work and why they’re important, it’s time to look at some of the best-selling steel wallets on the market right now.
Privacy Pro's Billfodl is made from stainless steel (grade 316), which makes it a particularly corrosion-resistant and very tough wallet. At $99, it is a great choice for the holder who wants value for money without compromising on quality. They are the only backup that offers a 125% money-back guarantee for life.
This second-generation backup from Cryptosteel is made from stainless steel (grade 304). It sells for $99 on Ledger Wallet's store, making it slightly more expensive than the Cryptosteel Cassette. It features a tube shape where tiles are dropped onto a core held within the tube. The idea is that metal bending is less likely in a house fire and so the structure of the tube should be more robust.
CRYPTOTAG is a titanium wallet that differs from Privacy Pro's Billfodl and Cryptosteel in that the owner uses a hammer or engraving pen to stamp or engrave letters into the metal plate itself. It comes in two versions, the Cryptotag Thor ($199) and the CryptoTag Zeus ($109). Because the Thor comes with a hammer, 26 letter bits, a bit holder, two stainless steel plates, earplugs, matches, and an anvil in the package, it is the more expensive set.
The CypherWheel is a steel backup wallet that also uses a tile system, similar to Billfodl and Cryptosteel, but instead opts for a rotating mechanism for loading and viewing. This steel wallet features a thicker 303 5/16" cut which means it is quite heavy and strong. You do pay for it though at its $215 price point, but it is important to remember this is storing very precious data!
SteelWallet is the steel backup wallet made by the same people who make the BitBox02 hardware wallet. This steel wallet utilizes a steel punch mechanism, where the user applies pressure to a punching tool to make an indent on a grid. Each punch represents one letter. This wallet utilizes 303 stainless steel.
One Billfodl customer recounted having stored around a million dollars of Bitcoin on a hardware wallet they stored with a paper backup inside of a fireproof safe.
Their house was flooded and the fireproof safe was filled with water, destroying the hardware wallet and disintegrating the paper backup.
This customer lost everything and now stores their backup on a Billfodl.
There are 4 main types of wallet backups.
Metal: This backup is what we are covering in this article - you use some sort of steel or titanium casing or plates to write down your seed phrase.
Paper: Writing down your seed phrase on paper using pen and ink is what most people use before they realize how dangerous it is due to the risks outlined in this article.
Digital: Some store their seed phrase on a USB drive. These digital copies are risky to create and can easily be destroyed or hacked.
Cloud: Some people keep their seed phrase on a text document stored on Google Drive or Dropbox; a dangerous practice since these are third-party services you must trust.
|Highly durable, resistant to fire, water, and acts of God.
|Can be expensive, risk of physical theft.
|Easy and cheap to create, with no digital footprint.
|fire and water damage, and risk of physical theft.
|Easy to store and replicate.
|Vulnerable to hacking and malware, risk of total data loss.
|Easy to access from any location, usually backed up by a service provider.
|Dependent on third-party security, risk of hacking, and unauthorized access.
It’s important to remember that anyone who finds your steel backup will have access to your coins.
After all, the whole point of the steel wallet is to back up a recovery seed which you use to get your bitcoins and altcoins back if you lose your wallet or it is destroyed.
Therefore, you need to make sure that your steel wallet is always somewhere no one else would find it. At the very least, make sure it is somewhere that only people you trust could find it.
You may even want to instruct your spouse or significant others that they can use this device to access your funds in the case of your death.
The point is, that steel wallets are meant to protect your Bitcoin seed phrase from destruction by fire and water damage.
If you have a multi-sig wallet, you will have several recovery seeds.
One of these devices will, therefore, not be enough to back up all of the recovery seeds.
You will need to buy one device for each recovery seed you have. So for instance, if you have a 2-of-3 multisig, you will need to buy three of these backup devices.
Do not store all three of your backups in the same place. This eliminates much of the protection that a multisig gives you since anyone who finds one of your recovery seeds has found all of them. They will then be able to recover all of your signatures and take your coins.
You may have noticed most of the wallets on this list are made of steel. That is mainly for cost reasons.
Titanium is A LOT more expensive, but it typically has higher heat tolerances than most stainless steels. It is not stronger though.
For these reasons, most wallets opt for some kind of stainless steel because they offer good performance for the money.
Jameson Lopp is one of Bitcoin’s most well-known security researchers. He’s considered a Bitcoin expert and has been in the space since 2011.
He published a Bitcoin steel stress test report, and these were his main findings:
Loss Via Destruction/Degradation: Melting points and corrosion resistance are critical for storage devices. Brass is best against fire, while stainless steel excels in corrosion resistance.
Loss Via Physical Attack: Security against unauthorized access is crucial.
Other Loss Vectors: Storing an HD seed is safer than a single private key. Digital storage of seeds is risky.
Stress Tests: Corrosion: ColdTi’s screws dissolved in muriatic acid.
Crushing: All devices deformed under 20 tons, but only some lost data.
Optimal Solution: None are perfect, but a proposed design involves titanium rods and multiple engraving methods.
Overall, Bitkee and Crypto Key Stack performed best in tests.
These were extreme tests. Most steel wallets will be good enough for most holders.
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