I held a small amount of BTC back in August (had them since 2014) but now wish to sell them. Do I need to claim my BCH before selling my BTC or am I correct in thinking that the two completely independent and selling one will have zero affect on the my ability to either claim or sell the other?
Because you owned Bitcoin (BTC) at the time of the fork, you also own Bitcoin Cash (BCH) with exactly the same addresses and private keys.
You need to:
- Export the private keys from your BTC wallet.
- Download and install a wallet that supports BCH. I recommend Coinomi via Bluestacks. It runs about 100 different alt coins side by side with your BTC and has exchange integration via Changelly and Shapeshift. (I have no affiliation with these services).
- Sweep the private keys exported from your BTC wallet into your BCH wallet.
- Consider sweeping those same BTC private keys to a new BTC address. There was some issue at the time of the fork with transaction replay (you transact on one coin and someone dupes the other to steal from you).
It's pretty easy, just keep track of what coin you're working with. A lot of people have sent their BTC to a BCH address they don't control. Then they lost their coin.
But wait, there's more
BTC was forked again in November into Bitcoin Gold (BTG). It's currently trading at $250. Do the same process with this new fork and claim even more coin.
I you had bitcoins at the moment of the fork, you own an equal ammount of bcash. As they implanted a strong replay protection,it does not matter if you sell your bitcoins afterwards. The only thing that matters is to hold your privkeys.
The only thing you have to do to claim your coins is to install a Bcash wallet and import your privkeys there.
Your thinking is correct in general. As a practical matter, you will need to preserve a way to access "your" BCH, i.e., the private keys of the addresses at which the to-be-sold bitcoins were sent to you. In most cases simply preserving the wallet that contained them will do; for a long time-horizon, though, I'd prefer to have a record of the actual private keys. Note that the private keys, if stolen, cannot be used to steal previously-sold bitcoins, but could be used to steal the BCH (or BTG or other forked alternate coins). Store them securely.