Bitcoin Versus Sats Denomination: Why Not Both?

Bitcoin is divisible down to the eighth decimal place. These subunits are called “satoshis” or just “sats.” One satoshi is 0.00000001 btc. Unfortunately this is impossible to read for small sat values. And as time goes on, we all expect bitcoin to keep appreciating to the point where smaller sat-denominated transactions will become the norm. So I’m generally on team #SatsTheStandard; instead of 0.00001042 btc, we can instead display:

1,042 sats

But for large amounts we have the opposite problem. Imagine setting up a transaction for 615,395,023 sats! At a quick glance, did I just type in 61 btc, 6.15 btc or 0.61 btc? I really don’t want to be off by a factor of ten here! If I slow down and concentrate a bit and remember that 1 btc is 100,000,000 sats, carry the decimal place, and… ah, 6.15 btc! But even that little bit of extra effort is disconcerting to have to expend when I’m moving this much value. No good.

If you’re a wholecoiner (i.e., you hold at least one full bitcoin in value) or close to it, you have the same readability problem when reviewing your total balance.

But all bitcoin wallets I’ve seen force you to decide on one denomination or the other, no matter how ill-suited either might be in certain cases.

Btc-Sats Hybrid To The Rescue!

Why not both?

Why not both?

I propose a display compromise:

₿6.15 | 395,023 sats

The first two digits after the decimal point still have so much value that they should stay on the btc-denominated side. The remaining six digits of sat value will cover the typical range of day-to-day, sat-denominated amounts that we’ll get used to seeing in our future hyperbitcoinized lives.

No information is thrown away. The large btc-denominated side would always use two decimal places like we’re all already accustomed to with our local fiat currencies. And on the sats-denominated side, a hundred thousand sats is visually very easy to discern from a thousand sats or a few hundred sats.

Simple. Easy to read. Elegant, even.

Specter Desktop Mockup With Btc-Sats Hybrid Versus The Existing Display Options

Specter Desktop Mockup With Btc-Sats Hybrid Versus The Existing Display Options

That divider is the “vertical bar” character or “pipe” in programmer-speak. Look just above your return key. It’s part of the standard ASCII character set. It’s not exotic. It’s already on your keyboard and on your phone. Your Coldcard can already display it. And, as in the mockup above, it can be colored for added effect. Programmers will gripe that the pipe character already has special meaning in code, but this ain’t code, nerds!

Coming Soon To A DIY Open-Source Hardware Wallet Near You?

Coming Soon To A DIY Open-Source Hardware Wallet Near You?

Whether the ₿ symbol should come before or after the amount is debatable, but I think having it in front offers the best clarity and it immediately conveys what the upcoming numbers mean. If the font being used can’t display the ₿ symbol, we can fall back to “btc:”

6.15 btc | 395,023 sats

If the sat-denominated side is less than 100,000, there’s no reason to display leading zeros:

₿6.15 | 4,820 sats

₿6.15 | 74 sats

When the total amount is less than 10 million sats, the btc-denominated side can be eliminated entirely:

4,820 sats

Though critical sticklers may prefer explicitly seeing the zeroed-out btc-denominated side:

₿0.00 | 4,820 sats

All good.

If space is at an absolute premium, the “sats” can be dropped but the space should be preserved before and after the pipe character (otherwise it’s too hard to distinguish it from a one):

₿6.15 | 395,023


There are at least 80 infuriating countries that swap their periods and commas. A Big Mac in Germany is 5,16 € (the space between the amount and the symbol is annoying, too). Really, Eurozone? Fine. I don’t love it but the btc-sats hybrid display can accommodate decimal dividers the way they’re used to seeing them:

₿6,15 | 395.023 sats

For all non-Michael Saylor transactions, we’ll only see one comma and one period in this display format. So the locale-specific confusion will be pretty limited. And if I’m being honest, I’m not even that mad about how this looks since the left-right division provided by the pipe character is doing so much heavy lifting; my eye barely registers that the comma and period are swapped.

And if they really need to move the ₿ symbol and add an unnecessary space, okay:

6,15 ₿ | 395.023 sats

Have at it, Europe.

The Japanese counting system naturally lends itself to four-digit separators. This is obviously a huge mess. But, if they so choose, they can group the sats-denominated side that way with minimal confusion for the rest of the world:

₿6.15 | 39,5023 sats

Data Input Considerations

So when we type in our transaction amount, the first six digits could first fill the sat-denominated side:

6 sats

61 sats

615 sats

6,153 sats

61,539 sats

615,395 sats

₿0.06 | 153,950 sats

This last row that suddenly bumps out to the btc-denominated side is our “oh shit!” moment if we’ve mistyped our amount. It’s screaming: “Yo, at this amount — 0.01 or more of a bitcoin — start paying super-close attention!”

Or perhaps more likely, UI implementations can explicitly separate the two sides, like the way a web form isolates birth day, month and year. So you can confidently start typing the large bitcoin-denominated side:

₿__ | __ sats

₿6.15 | __ sats

And then subsequent digit entries automatically jump to the other side:

₿6.15 | 3 sats

₿6.15 | 39 sats

₿6.15 | 395 sats

₿6.15 | 3,950 sats

₿6.15 | 39,502 sats

₿6.15 | 395,023 sats

Other Approaches

Now, of course, there have been other suggestions. Bitcoin Magazine recently published the “Satcomma Standard” which adds three-decimal groupings on the sats side:


The comma at a million satoshis here essentially serves the same purpose as my pipe character. And satcomma has the advantage of helping people see that 99,999,999 sats will round up to 1 bitcoin. But for my eyes there’s just too much crammed together here. And math teachers will just straight up refuse to teach students to read denominated values this way. It also keeps the localization bugaboo alive and well:

6,15.395.023 ₿

As a tech nerd that looks to me like an invalid IP address.

Others have argued for just using a space to separate the four digits on the sats side:

₿6.1539 5023

Or to use spaces in lieu of the satcomma’s commas:

Screen Mock From Bitcoin Design

Screen Mock From Bitcoin Design

These approaches are dead on arrival as far as I’m concerned. It orphans and unanchors those digit groupings. There’s a reason why phone numbers (867-5309) link their groups.

Another approach that I do support is just to set a display threshold. Above, say, 0.01 btc, show the amount in btc terms. Below the threshold, show it as sats. And let the user set their own threshold. I still don’t like seeing all eight digits after the decimal point in a pure btc-denominated display but this dynamic threshold-based approach is still an improvement over a btc-only or sats-only global setting.

Are We Go For Launch?

I contribute code to the awesome Specter Desktop open source multisig wallet project as well as to the world’s coolest little open-source hardware wallet, SeedSigner. If there’s enough enthusiasm, I’ll write PRs (“pull requests” — proposed changes to the code) to each project to include the btc-sats hybrid as an optional display setting.

So what do you think? Are you on team #BtcSatsHybrid?

Tweet your thoughts, reference the hashtag and tag me @KeithMukai.

This is a guest post by Keith Mukai. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.


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The Satcomma Standard: You Should Look At Bitcoin Like This

A Whole Number Notation Scheme For Sub-Decimal Amounts In Bitcoin

Regardless of what wallet software we use, the bitcoin notation standard, i.e., how the numerals appear in your balance, is the primary UX component of our relationship with bitcoin. The punctuation of money, periods and commas, and where they appear in sequence, provide us with critical information regarding our personal wealth and the cost of goods. The notation standard is the drawbridge we must cross every time we interact with money.

In this article I propose a new notation standard for bitcoin which uses commas on the right side of the decimal point, with comma separators at the expected intervals for whole numbers, i.e., every three numerals counting from right to left. While this is a distinct break from customary notation, it instantly conveys the conversion rate between bitcoin and sats, and this is its sole utility.

.03445674 BTC

would be


A Shift Toward Sats

A confluence of factors are leading to more and more vocal support for denominating bitcoin entirely in sats. As sub-decimal amounts of bitcoin become more and more prevalent in the broader economy, awareness of the satoshi unit is growing. On Lightning, for example, where whole BTC amounts aren’t yet used in production, denominating in sats is a must.

Despite the trend towards sats, whole number bitcoin denominations are still a part of life. The notation format outlined above unites bitcoin and sats in one visual representation.

What Problem Does This Solve?

If you interact with fractional bitcoin amounts long enough, the basics will become second nature. It took me probably two years before the idea that 0.5 bitcoin was equal to 50 million sats became intuitive. But there is a mental barrier to making this conversion quickly. The difficulty lies in the fact that while sats are universally counted in millions, the word “million” itself is a specific place measurement to the LEFT of the decimal.

0.5 BTC = 50,000,000 sats.

Fifty million is a whole integer amount, not a fractional amount. What we must come to grips with is that amounts expressed in sats imply a trailing decimal. The easiest way, then, to orient the user in notational space is to provide a comma separator every three numerals starting from the right, consistent with “million” in traditional notation.

It is only because Satoshi himself chose to add eight zeros to bitcoin and not nine, that we wrestle, subconsciously perhaps, with this conundrum of the third comma in satoshis. Had bitcoin been created with nine zeros, then the third comma would be in its proper place, whether you are reading from the right or from the left…


But since 1 bitcoin = 100,000,000 sats and not 1,000,000,000 sats, we are left with an awkward notational result, which is that in order to truly think in sats, we must insert a mental punctuation mark (a period) where it belongs: at the transition from 90 million to 100 million.

This issue does not exist in traditional finance because sub-cent values, which exist only in accounting, are always rounded up to the nearest tenth. In fiat terms, one-thousandth of a dollar does not exist. But bitcoin makes long strings of sub-decimal values necessary for the first time in economic history.

Because of the third comma conundrum and the new imperative to express eightdigit, sub-decimal strings, a new notational standard may be helpful. The scheme proposed above provides instant orientation and solves both problems.

Take a quick glance at the following numbers and narrate the sats conversion in your mind as you read. You will find it easy.





This notation standard is most helpful when making mental conversions between BTC and sats for amounts less than a million sats.

Say that you encounter the following amount:


In order to convert this to sats, the current notation standard leaves users with two options; either commit a conversion table to memory, or extend the zeros to the right when going from BTC to sats. The result is:


The problem with this exercise is that humans are not good at auditing amounts just by staring at a picture. After adding the zeros above, one must do at least one pass of error correction, double checking that the correct number of zeros have been added. It is a slow process.

Here’s another example:

698,000 sats.

In order to convert this to BTC we must do the same exercise above, but in reverse, extending the zeroes to the left and then adding a decimal. The result is:


While both of these conversions are mechanical and straightforward, they are cumbersome and must be done with painstaking accuracy. Being off by one zero is an expensive mistake.

The goal then is to create a notation standard which instantly accomplishes this conversion with a universally understood visual language, with built-in value signifiers to provide error correction at the first pass, and which allow the user to make value assessments without slowing down to count, then re-count, individual zeros.

Positive Feedback

The proposal has garnered a lot of discussion on Twitter.

The most surprising revelation was that I was not the first person to think of it.

Mark Nugent recently published this excellent essay. He and I have independently come to the same conclusions. His proposal is to use an apostrophe instead of a comma, which I also find appealing.

Another thing that surprised me was the overwhelming number of positive responses.

@BitSimple claims they are going to implement this in their app.

Carlo Campisi from Shakepay also tweeted that they are now looking into it.


Reaction to the concept was not 100 percent positive.

Matt Senter from the BTC rewards plugin Lolli said “😬No thanks. But I will update the email to use § notation.”

Among those who don’t like the idea, some common critiques emerged.

1 – Alternative grouping schemes

My argument against all of the above alternate format suggestions is that they don’t mirror from the traditional format of large numbers. Keep in mind this has nothing to do with fiat pricing. It’s solely about accurate conversion between units. When I see 10,000,000 I know instantly that it means ten million. The commas, their placement, and the amounts they signify are all deeply embedded.

2 – Futureproofing

He’s referring to the day when 1BTC=$1,000,000, and therefore one sat will equal $.01, or one penny. My response is threefold. The first is that any notation change wouldn’t be implemented at the protocol level, but rather at the wallet level. It’s a display parameter. If, at some future point, Bitcoin Core added digits to the right of the decimal, then wallet displays could easily be updated to reflect the 9th, 10th, 11th zero…ad infinitum. The second part of my response is that a penny, in real purchasing power, is almost a non-existent denomination as things stand today. In a world where 1 BTC is worth $1 million, I don’t know if goods will still be priced in pennies at all, so I’m not sure that adding a unit even smaller than that is necessary. Lastly, this won’t actually become an issue until 1 BTC is worth $10 million. Per my above logic, we can easily revisit this question then.

He is correct. In most cases you may have to write out the entire number. However most bitcoin transactions use all eight decimals anyway. Also, with this scheme, the more we see bitcoin amounts written out to the last decimal place, the more we reinforce the conversion to satoshis.

Precisely. For sats only amounts, which will become more and more common in the economy (especially on Lightning) this notation becomes more and more useful.

3 – “Just use sats!”

This was far and away the most common critique.

I think that sats can and will be a prevalent standard. This eventuality, however, only amplifies the need to aid people in conversion to bitcoin. The more things are priced exclusively in sats, the more important it is that people internalize this ratio. But no matter how common sats are, whole number bitcoin amounts will continue to exist, and whole number bitcoin amounts will still be ubiquitous.

“Moreover, applications like exchanges and blockchain explorers will probably always use BTC as their bitcoin unit of choice because they need to list large and small amounts together in a common format. Consider this screen grab of a list of unconfirmed transactions…” — Mark Nugent


In closing, I’d like to turn briefly to the question of unit bias, and how this notation, in a roundabout way, helps to ameliorate the problem.

Postscript: The Decimal Does Not Equate To Smallness

Bias against numbers to the right of the decimal, the perception that they represent insignificant sums, is wholly appropriate to an inflationary system, where all values get continuously smaller in real terms. Bitcoin obviates this mode of thinking forever. For many of us, it will become daily practice to measure substantial wealth with a leading period. The satcomma standard (thanks for the name @ZoltanTokoli), essentially recreates whole numbers to the right of the decimal. Used in the context of money, this format retrains the mind to perceive the decimal place as a doorway to large sums.

This is a guest post by ProgrammableTx. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.


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“Time To Switch To Satoshis” Says Galaxy Digital CEO Novogratz

It’s been a busy few months for crypto financial services firm Galaxy Digital. From sales to satoshis, the company has been making headlines. Galaxy Digital is fresh off the heels of acquiring digital assets infrastructure firm BitGo, and is one of four firms to lead a recent Canadian petition for an Ethereum ETF.

Now, Galaxy Digital CEO Mike Novogratz posted over the weekend on a Twitter post that he’d like to see more evolution in the crypto landscape, particularly with how we view Bitcoin on exchanges.

Seeing Satoshis

In his tweet, Novogratz suggests that consumer perception around the dollar value of Bitcoin can be better addressed by reducing units to satoshis (SATS), rather than full units of BTC. No major cryptocurrency exchanges do so, leaving Novogratz to ask, “which exchange will be the first to quote in SATS?”, while tagging some of crypto’s biggest executives in the industry.

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Square’s Cash App added SATS last year, but no crypto-dedicated exchanges have followed. Additionally, crypto tracking website CryptoMarketCap tracks SATS, which are valued at 0.00000001 BTC.

Related Reading | Citi Just Realized It Can’t Beat Bitcoin, Considers Joining Instead

Is It Psychological?

The main premise is of course, the psychological aspect around having a more affordable unit to build an individual’s cost basis of Bitcoin around. Billionaire and crypto-enthusiast Mark Cuban explained the hype around Dogecoin around this exact concept, stating that “it’s hard for someone with $100 to get excited about owning a fraction of BTC or ETH. It’s easy with Doge”. Blockchain Research Lab co-founder Ingo Fiedler expressed similar sentiments, stating that “while it makes financially no difference to change the denomination from BTC to Sats, it has a psychological impact that likely helps further adoption”.

Despite this barrier, recent analysis from Glassnode shows that addresses holding less than 1 BTC make up over 5% of the crypto’s circulating supply. Companies like Lolli have aimed at normalizing this unit of value, by way of rewarding consumers with small amounts of satoshis as they spend money with partnered companies.

Alternatively, Kraken CEO Jesse Powell explains that it is not necessarily that simple: “Have to think through the UX, discoverability. 99% of new users coming in will be looking for bitcoin/BTC and have no idea what a satoshi/sat is. Don’t want to confuse them.”

BTC has seen stable and steady growth to start the year. | Source: BTC-USD on

Legacy Of The Lexicon

Satoshis come from mysterious BTC creator Satoshi Nakamoto, who has been the center of speculation around the pioneering cryptocurrency since it’s 2008 whitepaper. It was just over a decade ago that Nakamoto sent his final emails to developers stating that he was moving on to other projects. A number of individuals have been identified as potential pioneers that fit the bill of Nakamoto, but none have led to a definitive answer.

Continuous questions remain rooted in the name: who is Satoshi Nakamoto? Does institutional adoption of BTC interfere with Satoshi’s desire of removing a middleman? It was just last month that the U.S. state of Louisiana passed a resolution to commend Bitcoin’s success as becoming the first decentralized trillion dollar asset, but questions still loom around the legendary Bitcoin developer.

Nowadays, the questions reach beyond the origination of the Satoshi Nakamoto moniker, and into the realm of how should we be measuring our crypto holdings.

Related Reading | Bitcoin Moves Sideways, But Looks Set For A Moon Week

Featured image from Pixabay, Charts from


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Bottom line on the tax conversation: Everyone wants to trade alts to stack sats. You still have to sell some of those sats to pay taxes in USD. You have no idea what the price of BTC will be when you make that payment, so the best option is to sell enough BTC to USD regularly.

Bottom line on the tax conversation:

Everyone wants to trade alts to stack sats.

You still have to sell some of those sats to pay taxes in USD. You have no idea what the price of BTC will be when you make that payment, so the best option is to sell enough BTC to USD regularly.


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@HodlThatCornSir @iambroots Imagine giving a fuck about what Bear-roots says. This same little budget weekend wrestler said $RSR was going to 11sats. You’re as good as dead to me after comments like that. I refuse to engage anymore. Me and the family flying to financial freedom 👨🏽‍🚀🚀🌚

@HodlThatCornSir @iambroots Imagine giving a fuck about what Bear-roots says.

This same little budget weekend wrestler said $RSR was going to 11sats.

You’re as good as dead to me after comments like that.

I refuse to engage anymore.

Me and the family flying to financial freedom 👨🏽‍🚀🚀🌚


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