US Marshals in action, minus the horses. Photo: United States Marshals Service

The US Marshal Service made its reputation for bravery in the 19th century when its famed silver star-wearing, trail-riding agents set out to tame the Wild West by heroically chasing down Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and hundreds of other frontier outlaws.

Today the US’ oldest federal law enforcement agency, whose marshals have served the country since 1789, are in the news again, but for something quite different. And that’s selling contraband bitcoins that have been seized from a much newer type of cowboy.

On Thursday the US Marshals Office announced it had auctioned 2,170.7 bitcoins that were “forfeited in various federal criminal, civil and administrative cases” involving the US Department of Justice, the FBI, the US Department of Homeland Security and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

The bitcoins were sold in an auction on March 9 to two bidders for a total value of approximately US$18.7 million, which, intriguingly, works out at about $4,600 each. Of course that’s far lower than today’s market value of about $8,500.

The US Marshals Service, that today primarily carries out a seized asset identification and evaluation role, has previously handled almost 6,000 other bitcoins in two other auctions, in 2016 and in early 2018.

It maybe a long way from their Wild Frontier roots, but if they see the need to get nostalgic in any future crypto auctions, they could do far worse than humming along with the Bitcon Cowboy.