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Author Topic: What could cause a paper wallet to become invalid?  (Read 2909 times)
canton
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April 08, 2013, 08:02:37 PM
 #1

If I securely load 10 BTC onto a paper wallet today and put it in a safety deposit box for 10 years, could something happen to the Bitcoin protocol itself that would invalidate the balance or make it unrecoverable at the end of that period? (Other than Bitcoin going away altogether of course.)

Put another way: are there some predictable/foreseeable changes we can anticipate as Bitcoin gains popularity and scales such that I should expect to have to bring wallets out of storage and swipe them into newfangled wallets from time to time so as to preserve their validity?

Thanks for helping me understand this.

https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com - Gorgeous 2-sided tri-fold paper wallets with tamper-evident features. *** Now with BIP38 & dice generator ***

My RSA Key ID & Fingerprint: 36E1D9B6 / AB12 6777 451C 7A18 C172 3297 C525 F065 0B16 DF4B
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April 08, 2013, 08:24:45 PM
 #2

Basically, no.  The only reason to change away from the current ECDSA math would be if there was a dramatic cryptographic break, which is very unlikely to happen.  And if it did, the response would most likely be to add a new signature type, not to invalidate the old ones.

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April 08, 2013, 08:29:03 PM
 #3

None that you should expect. If there were not a single spending from that key - the security hangs on RIPEMD-160, SHA256 and ECDSA secp256k1 authenticity and integrity checks. With one or more spendings - on ECDSA secp256k1 authenticity check only. It is highly unlikely that there will be need to change any one of them for something else. Not in 10 years time.
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April 08, 2013, 08:47:56 PM
 #4

It is highly unlikely that there will be need to change any one of them for something else. Not in 10 years time.

Thanks for the replies.

I forgot to ask, what about relying on Wallet Import Format? Any reason for me to withhold placing faith in WIF for the long-term? My thinking is that even if services & software improve on WIF, a 2010's era WIF should still be recognized and supported a decade later... or am I missing something?

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April 08, 2013, 08:50:26 PM
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I do not think that WIF decoding knowledge will be wiped off of the face of the Earth in 10 years time. You may still duplicate the same key in good old HEX notation if you want to be extra safe.
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April 08, 2013, 10:37:58 PM
 #6

I've got not much to add to the discussion - various formats of private key are easy to convert. Now, without revealing the priv key, you cannot, in principle, always convert between various formats of addresses (since these are one-way functions (hashes) of the public key, which is a one-way function (ecdsa) of the priv key).

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April 08, 2013, 10:41:57 PM
 #7

Revealing? To whom? Maybe you meant "using privkey"?
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April 08, 2013, 11:25:07 PM
 #8

If I securely load 10 BTC onto a paper wallet today and put it in a safety deposit box for 10 years, could something happen to the Bitcoin protocol itself that would invalidate the balance or make it unrecoverable at the end of that period? (Other than Bitcoin going away altogether of course.)

Put another way: are there some predictable/foreseeable changes we can anticipate as Bitcoin gains popularity and scales such that I should expect to have to bring wallets out of storage and swipe them into newfangled wallets from time to time so as to preserve their validity?

Thanks for helping me understand this.


I'd be far more concerned about deterioration or damage of the paper or ink during that time than I would about "something happening to the Bitcoin protocol itself that would invalidate the balance or make it unrecoverable".

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April 08, 2013, 11:33:27 PM
 #9

I would agree.

I personally would put a password protected paper wallet in at least two different safety deposit boxes (preferably in distant cities), and then give the password to my attorney.  Never know if the bank will burn down or if someone will find a way to snoop in your box.  You won't want them redeeming your paper wallet.  The distant cities part makes it hard for someone to rob you at gunpoint.

Companies claiming they got hacked and lost your coins sounds like fraud so perfect it could be called fashionable.  I never believe them.  If I ever experience the misfortune of a real intrusion, I declare I have been honest about the way I have managed the keys in Casascius Coins.  I maintain no ability to recover or reproduce the keys, not even under limitless duress or total intrusion.  Remember that trusting strangers with your coins without any recourse is, as a matter of principle, not a best practice.  Don't keep coins online. Use paper or hardware wallets instead.
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April 09, 2013, 12:03:12 AM
 #10

Revealing? To whom? Maybe you meant "using privkey"?
Revealing it to myself, or anyone else. I am assuming private key is hidden in a tamper-proof manner. Can't use it without revealing it. Doesn't matter for this discussion.

While Casascius' encrypted keys are a great idea that removes the need for hidden priv keys, they do introduce the risk of password being lost or forgotten. This risk is managable, but should not be ignored.

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April 09, 2013, 12:19:56 AM
 #11

- snip -
The distant cities part makes it hard for someone to rob you at gunpoint.

It also reduces the risk that a tornado, flood, fire, earthquake, etc. destroys both copies of the paper wallet

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April 09, 2013, 04:12:53 AM
 #12

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I'd be far more concerned about deterioration or damage of the paper or ink during that time than I would about "something happening to the Bitcoin protocol itself that would invalidate the balance or make it unrecoverable".

100% agreed. I think water damage is the biggest threat to a paper wallet. I've been doing some experiments to see what I can do to mitigate how water -- even just minuscule drops of condensation from a cold bottle of beer -- can turn an inkjet-printed wallet into squid-ink soup. Inkjet prints are alarmingly delicate.

The reason I'm trying to make sure I understand the technical hazards of paper wallets is so that I can give good all-around recommendations to people printing wallets: from water-proofing to technical to common sense advice.

https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com - Gorgeous 2-sided tri-fold paper wallets with tamper-evident features. *** Now with BIP38 & dice generator ***

My RSA Key ID & Fingerprint: 36E1D9B6 / AB12 6777 451C 7A18 C172 3297 C525 F065 0B16 DF4B
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April 09, 2013, 05:16:53 AM
 #13

There's always the possibility that the community will decide to change the rules of the system. If everyone (or whoever controls the community) decides in a few years that lost coins are a big problem and ruining Bitcoin, we could see coins that haven't moved in 10 years from apparently inactive addresses being taken as mining fees, for example.

But barring unpredictable and fairly arbitrary changes to the definition of "Bitcoin" like the above, an old paper wallet would probably still be valid if you could read it.
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April 09, 2013, 05:18:36 AM
 #14

There's a project to build better open paper wallets. It includes a backup key stub for secondary storage and will be printed commercially on durable, acid free archival quality paper. Security stickers will protect the code and human-readable keys from water damage, light and prying eyes.

The project is moving quite fast - I estimate the first production run in less than one month.


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April 09, 2013, 06:50:11 AM
 #15

I forgot to ask, what about relying on Wallet Import Format? Any reason for me to withhold placing faith in WIF for the long-term? My thinking is that even if services & software improve on WIF, a 2010's era WIF should still be recognized and supported a decade later... or am I missing something?
If you're afraid of that, you should also print out the current spec of the WIF and keep it with your paper wallets, so that in the rare chance that knowledge is lost, it can be reconstructed.

Bitcoin Core developer [PGP] Warning: For most, coin loss is a larger risk than coin theft. A disk can die any time. Regularly back up your wallet through FileBackup Wallet to an external storage or the (encrypted!) cloud. Use a separate offline wallet for storing larger amounts.
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April 09, 2013, 07:55:10 AM
 #16

If I securely load 10 BTC onto a paper wallet today and put it in a safety deposit box for 10 years, could something happen to the Bitcoin protocol itself that would invalidate the balance or make it unrecoverable at the end of that period? (Other than Bitcoin going away altogether of course.)

Put another way: are there some predictable/foreseeable changes we can anticipate as Bitcoin gains popularity and scales such that I should expect to have to bring wallets out of storage and swipe them into newfangled wallets from time to time so as to preserve their validity?

Thanks for helping me understand this.


If you're storing it for 10 years, you might want to secure it with TWO keys
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April 09, 2013, 11:33:51 AM
 #17

Quote
I'd be far more concerned about deterioration or damage of the paper or ink during that time than I would about "something happening to the Bitcoin protocol itself that would invalidate the balance or make it unrecoverable".

100% agreed. I think water damage is the biggest threat to a paper wallet. I've been doing some experiments to see what I can do to mitigate how water -- even just minuscule drops of condensation from a cold bottle of beer -- can turn an inkjet-printed wallet into squid-ink soup. Inkjet prints are alarmingly delicate.

The reason I'm trying to make sure I understand the technical hazards of paper wallets is so that I can give good all-around recommendations to people printing wallets: from water-proofing to technical to common sense advice.

Absolutely do not ever use inkjets for anything that you want to last  The only exception is when you can provide stable storage at a cost greater than the value of the printout.

Long term wallets should always be laser printed.  Laser printers work by melting tiny plastic beads onto the surface of the paper.  Laser printed documents can survive water, provided they are not pulped by excessive time or motion.  They can also survive fire, if protected by an ablative fire safe.  Pretty much any normal modern office paper should survive well beyond your lifetime without any heroic measures.

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April 09, 2013, 06:14:42 PM
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Quote
I'd be far more concerned about deterioration or damage of the paper or ink during that time than I would about "something happening to the Bitcoin protocol itself that would invalidate the balance or make it unrecoverable".

100% agreed. I think water damage is the biggest threat to a paper wallet. I've been doing some experiments to see what I can do to mitigate how water -- even just minuscule drops of condensation from a cold bottle of beer -- can turn an inkjet-printed wallet into squid-ink soup. Inkjet prints are alarmingly delicate.

The reason I'm trying to make sure I understand the technical hazards of paper wallets is so that I can give good all-around recommendations to people printing wallets: from water-proofing to technical to common sense advice.

Waterproof printing is easily done, you just need the right material printed on a laser printer (not ink jet) here's an example:

http://rippedsheets.com/laser/reemay.html#100721-1

(I linked this in your other thread too)


                         
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TorCoin.....
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April 09, 2013, 06:39:05 PM
 #19

Quote
I'd be far more concerned about deterioration or damage of the paper or ink during that time than I would about "something happening to the Bitcoin protocol itself that would invalidate the balance or make it unrecoverable".

100% agreed. I think water damage is the biggest threat to a paper wallet. I've been doing some experiments to see what I can do to mitigate how water -- even just minuscule drops of condensation from a cold bottle of beer -- can turn an inkjet-printed wallet into squid-ink soup. Inkjet prints are alarmingly delicate.

The reason I'm trying to make sure I understand the technical hazards of paper wallets is so that I can give good all-around recommendations to people printing wallets: from water-proofing to technical to common sense advice.

Has anyone tried spraying the paper after printing with acrylic or lacquer to protect it from water?

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April 09, 2013, 07:23:08 PM
 #20

Quote
I'd be far more concerned about deterioration or damage of the paper or ink during that time than I would about "something happening to the Bitcoin protocol itself that would invalidate the balance or make it unrecoverable".

100% agreed. I think water damage is the biggest threat to a paper wallet. I've been doing some experiments to see what I can do to mitigate how water -- even just minuscule drops of condensation from a cold bottle of beer -- can turn an inkjet-printed wallet into squid-ink soup. Inkjet prints are alarmingly delicate.

The reason I'm trying to make sure I understand the technical hazards of paper wallets is so that I can give good all-around recommendations to people printing wallets: from water-proofing to technical to common sense advice.

Has anyone tried spraying the paper after printing with acrylic or lacquer to protect it from water?
I know museums and galleries coat photographs (silver or platinum/palladium prints on paper) with some sort of spray.


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April 09, 2013, 07:36:30 PM
 #21

Just a thought: we don't know how Bitcoin will evolve in terms of block size, mining fees, and off-chain transactions. It seems likely that, if this experiment succeeds even more, most transactions will be performed off-chain, and "banks" and payment processors will use blockchain for occasional reconciliation of accounts. Proposals are already out there. If things unfold that way, blockchain transaction fees may be significant, to the point of rendering smaller savings from today uneconomical to spend.
If, on the other hand, developers manage to address scalability challenges (assuming they are willing to, which may not be the case for those who are also working on off-chain overlays), we might be able to use blockchain just fine.

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April 09, 2013, 09:25:19 PM
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Has anyone tried spraying the paper after printing with acrylic or lacquer to protect it from water?

I got a suggestion in this regard from someone on YouTube. I'm going to order a can of Krylon "Preserve It" to see if that does the trick. That is, if the fumes don't kill me first. (Reviews say it's a good product but that it creates an unholy stink.)

If anyone has experience with specific spray-on waterproofing products I'd be very interested.

https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com - Gorgeous 2-sided tri-fold paper wallets with tamper-evident features. *** Now with BIP38 & dice generator ***

My RSA Key ID & Fingerprint: 36E1D9B6 / AB12 6777 451C 7A18 C172 3297 C525 F065 0B16 DF4B
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April 09, 2013, 10:13:17 PM
 #23

These bags may be "unprofessional" (?) but I believe that at the end of the day they keep the moisture outside.


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April 09, 2013, 10:37:02 PM
 #24

Great suggestion for plastic sleeves.

A bit of googling and I found several collector's sites selling archival sleeves to keep currency:

http://www.jpscorner.com/currency-sleeves.html

I am thinking of including a ring-binder and 3-note plastic holders (Pro Kit), or a pack of single note sleeves (Basic Kit).

I can add them to the basic kit for about USD0.05 (5 cents) each, or $2 for 40. Would you pay $2 to have 40 special sleeves included in a paper wallet kit?

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May 06, 2013, 06:11:10 PM
 #25

Would you pay $2 to have 40 special sleeves included in a paper wallet kit?

Definitely. I'd pay $.25 each in fact. Any wallet worth protecting long-term against moisture is worth protecting for an additional .25 cents.

I'm thinking about sleeves as an add-on to the order form at http://bitcoinpaperwallet.com as well since my initial experiments with waterproof inkjet paper haven't been going so well: The Krylon spray is so stinky that I have to work with it outdoors... and still the smell pollutes my work environment for days at a time. Yesterday I tried using polyester inkjet paper (Graytex brand) and while the front side printed fine, re-loading to print the backside caused a paper jam because the paper gets a little deformed during printing.

Low-tech sleeves seem like a great way to go. Good enough for baseball cards, good enough for me.

https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com - Gorgeous 2-sided tri-fold paper wallets with tamper-evident features. *** Now with BIP38 & dice generator ***

My RSA Key ID & Fingerprint: 36E1D9B6 / AB12 6777 451C 7A18 C172 3297 C525 F065 0B16 DF4B
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May 06, 2013, 06:26:44 PM
 #26

A bit of googling and I found several collector's sites selling archival sleeves to keep currency

FWIW I think a better pick would be some kind of sealing sleeve. (I think those currency sleeves are open at the ends, so liquid would have an easier time finding its way inside.) Maybe something like this?

http://www.papermart.com/Product%20Pages/Product.aspx?GroupID=15037&SubGroupID=15038

https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com - Gorgeous 2-sided tri-fold paper wallets with tamper-evident features. *** Now with BIP38 & dice generator ***

My RSA Key ID & Fingerprint: 36E1D9B6 / AB12 6777 451C 7A18 C172 3297 C525 F065 0B16 DF4B
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May 06, 2013, 06:37:36 PM
 #27

My suggestion for long term secure storage of bitcoins:

Encrypted Paper Wallets

Make Two Copies

Store Them In Two Safety Deposit Boxes (two faraway cities preferably - makes theft by force more difficult)

Leave Passphrase with your attorney or estate planning professional

Companies claiming they got hacked and lost your coins sounds like fraud so perfect it could be called fashionable.  I never believe them.  If I ever experience the misfortune of a real intrusion, I declare I have been honest about the way I have managed the keys in Casascius Coins.  I maintain no ability to recover or reproduce the keys, not even under limitless duress or total intrusion.  Remember that trusting strangers with your coins without any recourse is, as a matter of principle, not a best practice.  Don't keep coins online. Use paper or hardware wallets instead.
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May 06, 2013, 08:27:06 PM
 #28

If anyone has experience with specific spray-on waterproofing products I'd be very interested.

Why make things so complicated? Just use a laserprinter or photocopier and print direct onto plastic

Remember those transparency slides from the '90? Never thought I'd break open the box of blanks I still have here:



You basically print with black onto a transparent piece of plastic and if you store it well (put a white piece of paper on both sides) it lasts forever. It will not survive fire though.

In order to scan it in again to read the QR code, just put a new blank sheet of paper behind it and it looks just like a printed piece of paper (perhaps with some glare if the lighting is off)

The logic would be to print multiple copies of the same sheet, on quality thick white paper (that does not degrade due to acid from pollution), a transparency sheet and another style of your choice. Put a few of your choices through a laminator for the heck of it. Package them well into some presentation pockets with paper padding around them, avoid to write on them with permanent markers. Put them in sealed baggy. Put that into a thick envelope.

Keep fingers crossed...

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May 06, 2013, 08:59:43 PM
 #29

Just use a laserprinter or photocopier and print direct onto plastic

Folks with laserprinters are lucky because then they can print onto any one of the many polyester/tyvek type papers out there. Like this one, which according to the marketing sheet is used by the Navy for printing submarine manuals:

http://www.relyco.com/index.php/products/revlar-waterproof-paper

But what about people with inkjet printers, which are probably much more common?  Everyone knows someone with a laserprinter, but I don't want to recommend that people walk their laptop over to a friend's less secure network (or IT-managed/monitored work environment) to use their laserprinter. I'd love to find a reliable solution for making secure wallets at home with an inkjet printer.

https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com - Gorgeous 2-sided tri-fold paper wallets with tamper-evident features. *** Now with BIP38 & dice generator ***

My RSA Key ID & Fingerprint: 36E1D9B6 / AB12 6777 451C 7A18 C172 3297 C525 F065 0B16 DF4B
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May 06, 2013, 09:35:36 PM
 #30

But what about people with inkjet printers, which are probably much more common?  Everyone knows someone with a laserprinter, but I don't want to recommend that people walk their laptop over to a friend's less secure network (or IT-managed/monitored work environment) to use their laserprinter. I'd love to find a reliable solution for making secure wallets at home with an inkjet printer.

You can buy a USB connected laser printer for less than $USD 100. Shop around.

Sure, don't get your hopes up to buy a new toner for that machine for less than $USD 100, but the default toner should last you a couple of hundred pages.

Inktjet prints always degrade. If you have to print with an inktjet, take it to a photo copy shop and make a 'hard' copy with toner of your page (and pray the photocopier does not store copies of your pages on the internal harddisk for later analysis ;-)
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May 07, 2013, 12:36:31 AM
 #31

You can buy a USB connected laser printer for less than $USD 100. Shop around.

I think mine had a MSRP of like $65 when I got it a few years ago.  Cheap ass Samsung USB job.  Print density wasn't good enough for direct PCB toner transfer*, but it works great as a low volume home office printer.

For the iron method, the LaserJet 4+ is still king.  Absolutely no voids inside sold print areas, so you don't get random breaks in thin traces or pinholes in ground planes.


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May 07, 2013, 12:40:30 AM
 #32

https://www.bitcoinstore.com/dell-b1160-laser-printer-monochrome-600-x-600-dpi-print-plain-paper-print-desktop.html

30 seconds of searching on bitcoinstore.com.  Currently 0.73 BTC.

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May 07, 2013, 12:51:13 AM
 #33

And if it did, the response would most likely be to add a new signature type, not to invalidate the old ones.
If sufficiently far in the future we were looking at a real break of ecdsa— not just a scary certificational weakness— I would be arguing to make the old transactions unspendable at such a time that any spending were very likely to be a theif rather than their real owner:  Reintroducing lost coins into circulation is a form of inflation, and the prospect of years of happy ecc mining justifies expenditures on cracking hardware— capping the upside should make users making the transition safer.  Regardless, from a personal perspective being unspendable is basically the same as being stolen, so in such an event action will be required no matter what the network does.

But short of such an issue, which I agree is unlikely, the "paper" wallet should still be spendable so long as adequate documentation is provided. I would personally include a copy of the complete source code used to generate the paper wallet.

Because of the (very small not non zero) risk of something like an ecdsa break, I'd discourage someone from putting a wallet where it would be completely inaccessible for decades.

Quote
we could see coins that haven't moved in 10 years from apparently inactive addresses being taken as mining fees, for example.
This would be an inflationary policy and it has a snowballs chance in hell. Insufficient granularity can be addressed by simply increasing precision.  Unmoved coins creating concern about the money supply are a different matter, however, but even correcting that seems unlikely (except maybe as a side effect of a crypto break).

Bitcoin will not be compromised
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May 07, 2013, 01:03:19 AM
 #34

Yeah, seems like the only risks would be is physical damage.

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May 07, 2013, 01:20:45 AM
 #35

Canines have a tendency to invalidate paper wallets



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May 07, 2013, 01:26:55 AM
 #36

100% agreed. I think water damage is the biggest threat to a paper wallet. I've been doing some experiments to see what I can do to mitigate how water -- even just minuscule drops of condensation from a cold bottle of beer -- can turn an inkjet-printed wallet into squid-ink soup. Inkjet prints are alarmingly delicate.

If you are super paranoid you may want to look into thermal transfer barcode printers (not to be confused with thermal printers*).  They can use resin cartridges and tear resistant (tyvek) labels.  Once printed a resin wax label is not going to be affected by water, age, sunlight, moisture, and normal heat (excluding a fire).  The higher quality stuff (name brand Zebra ribbons) resists solvents, bleach, cleaner, gasoline, etc.  They routinely are used in warehouses and other dirty, hazardous areas and last ... forever.  Pretty routine for a 10 year old label to still scan with a barcode scanner.  

Thermal transfer printers aren't cheap (usually $300 to $400 or more) but if someone was looking to paper wallet say 1000 BTC I wouldn't use anything less.


*Slighly confusing but thermal printers have no ribbon they use a printhead which produces heat to cause a chemical change in paper.  Everyone has seen the faded receipts from a thermal printer.  The same technology however can be used to apply with high precision a layer of wax or resin onto a paper, or plastic card.  The later are called thermal transfer.  Most thermal transfer printers can do both (direct thermal or thermal transfer). 

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