U.S. Marshals Are Selling 29,656.51306529 Bitcoin

The digital currency, worth more than $17 million, was seized by the government in a raid on Silk Road's servers.

The United States government finds itself in possession of an odd asset that it must now auction: Bitcoin, the digital currency. 

And we're not talking about a couple of spare bitcoin, but rather 29,657 bitcoin—which converts to more than $17 million based on today's exchange rate.

Marshals get their hands on (and subsequently auction off) all kinds of seized assets—luxuries like Lamborghinis, fur coats, and mansions—but this auction represents a new kind of wealth.

Under federal law, the government is required to auction the assets seized by Justice Department agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Drug Enforcement Agency. According to the U.S. Marshals website, more than 9,000 items of forfeited property bring in some $99 million a year.

The government seized this particular cryptocurrency windfall in a raid on servers for Silk Road, the black market website, last year. (The bitcoin being auctioned doesn't include the personal stash of Ross William Ulbricht, the suspected mastermind of Silk Road.)

Bidder registration opens on June 16 and closes June 23, according to a notice posted on the U.S. Marshals website. Only registered bidders can participate in the auction, which will take place over a 12-hour period on June 27.

Participants will be able to fight for nine blocks of 3,000 bitcoin—each block worth about $1.8 million based on today's conversion—and a single block of 2,657 bitcoin worth about $1.6 million.

"All bids," the government stipulates, "must be made in U.S. dollars."

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Adrienne LaFrance is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Technology Channel. Previously she worked as an investigative reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat, Nieman Journalism Lab, and WBUR. More

Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Gawker, The Awl, and several other publications.

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