Understanding coin-splitting

Occasionally someone asks me a question about coin-splitting which I don’t understand. I often get the impression that people have heard about it and know they need to do it, but may not understand what is going on or what they should see at the end of the process. There’s a pretty bad disconnect when someone seems to think they should see a higher balance at the end of the process, so maybe this article will help.

Ideally this will be the one of several articles that try and cover coin-splitting from different angles. In this article, I will try and clearly describe to ElectrumSV users the following things:

  1. Why your coins need to be split.
  2. If you can visually tell whether your coins are split.
  3. What it means when you look at your wallet after using the ElectrumSV coin-splitting feature.

What I am not covering in this article, is how to get the unsplit coins into your ElectrumSV wallet in the first place. Or how to use the coin-splitting tab and stepping you through the actual splitting process.

The starting point

You had some Bitcoin Cash before the blockchain forked into Bitcoin SV and Bitcoin Cash ABC in November 2018. You have the coins in your ElectrumSV wallet and want to be able to use it to safely spend the Bitcoin SV shown there. But you’ve heard you need to split them first, but what does it mean?

If you spend one, it spends the other

If your coins are not split, and you make a payment on one of these blockchains, the same payment is valid on the other blockchain. While you may only be making the payment in ElectrumSV on the Bitcoin SV blockchain, it will almost certainly occur on Bitcoin Cash ABC as well. Someone will send it to the Bitcoin Cash ABC blockchain.

Until you know that your Bitcoin SV are split, unless you do not care if you give away your Bitcoin Cash ABC, you probably do not want to be spending it without splitting them first.

👉 This is why your coins need to be split.

How can I tell if my coins are split?

It’s too complicated.

What you need to know is that you have made a transaction on Bitcoin SV that cannot be made on Bitcoin Cash ABC. And you need to know this for all the transactions you have received, not just the ones you have sent. There is no easy way to know this, or for me to describe how you can work this out — the simplest way is if you actually split the coins, and know they are split because of this.

👉You can’t realistically tell your coins are split, you have to know they are split.

Another reason it is complicated is that not all your coins in your wallet need to be split together, so under some circumstances both intentional and unintentional, some of your coins may be split and some may not. It may be that you intentionally selected that only some of your coins should be split, which means you intentionally did not split the rest of them. It may be that you received more unsplit coins into your wallet after you split the existing coins.

For this reason, it is recommended that you split all the coins in your wallet at the same time, and in fact ElectrumSV will do this by default. Where it won’t do it, is when you have explicitly frozen either coins or addresses. If you’ve never frozen coins or addresses, or don’t even know what that means, then you don’t have to worry about it — when you split your coins in ElectrumSV it will split the entire balance.

Can I at least know if a transaction is on one chain?

If for example you believe you have split your wallet, and it should be Bitcoin SV only, but you receive a new payment and have reason to believe that new payment might be on both chains — how can you check?

Well, you could open up the corresponding wallet on Bitcoin Cash ABC, which should also be split, and see if the same payment arrives there. But you can also check using a block explorer.

You can see the newest payment in your wallet history in ElectrumSV.

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The new transaction.

Show the context menu for this payment and select the “Details” option.

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The “Details” context menu option.

This will open the transaction viewer. It’s complicated and all you need to do is copy the transaction ID.

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Obtaining the “Transaction ID”.

Now google for “bitcoin cash block explorer” and select one of the matches. Then search for your transaction ID. If it is known by the Bitcoin Cash ABC network, then you will find it. If not, you might see something like this:

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Make sure you are looking at a Bitcoin Cash ABC block explorer. If you are, you’ll see the values are in the BCH currency. Some block explorers handle multiple chains, so there is some potential for confusion if you don’t pay attention.

What do I see once I have split my Bitcoin SV?

So you use the ElectrumSV coin-splitting functionality to split all the coins in your wallet on the Bitcoin SV blockchain, and you see two automatically labelled transactions in your payment history. What do they mean?

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A successful split.

I’ve already explained how your coins are split by including them in a transaction that is only valid on Bitcoin SV. This just moves those coins on Bitcoin SV, leaving them in the same place on Bitcoin Cash ABC. Now those coins are detached, or split, on both blockchains and can be safely spent.

The easiest way to create a transaction that is only valid on Bitcoin SV, is simply to obtain some already split coins, and include them in the transaction. How we do this in the ElectrumSV coin-splitting process, is we ask a faucet to send us a tiny amount (we call this dust) of free Bitcoin SV only coins. The splitting process detects the arrival of this automatically labels it “Dust from BSV faucet”.

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The faucet dust.

Once the coin-splitting process knows it has the dust, it creates a transaction including all your existing coins with the new dust coin, and broadcasts that to the network. ElectrumSV does not list this transaction until it receives it back from the Bitcoin network, at which point it’s labelled for you to indicate that the split was successful.

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The Bitcoin SV only transaction.

You will note that the balance remains about the same. But at this point you know you have split all the coins in your wallet. It’s up to you to keep track of your coins from this point on, and which ones are split.

What if I lose track?

Let’s say you know you have received more payments since you split your coins, but are not sure whether they are split or not.

The simplest thing to do is split all your coins again.

The easiest way to do this is to go to the receiving tab and copy your own receiving address, then go to the sending tab, and send all your coins to yourself. Because you know your wallet contains some Bitcoin SV only coins, the potentially unsplit coins will be combined with these and will in turn also become Bitcoin SV coins. This is a more direct way to do what the coin-splitting tab does.

👉If you split all your coins and received more payments, but don’t know if all the new coins are split, just split all your coins again.

You can of course also just use the coin-splitting tab again.

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