Alternative Finances

Bitcoin Strikes For The Gold Standard

When people say someone is as “rich as Croesus,” they’re talking of to a time (B.C. time) when gold was first starting to be used as a currency. A time when Croesus of Mermnadae, the last King of Lydia, had accumulated an ungodly amount of gold that was made from Lydian merchants.

And then there’s 2015. 

Just when the payments dialogue is dominated by talk of mobile payments, NFC-chip enabled cards and digital currencies, somehow the oldest standard of currency has finagled its way back into the newest form of payments by redefining the meaning of “the gold standard.”

Yep, we’re talking bitcoin.

That’s what’s happened this week as a result of a partnership between digital currency company Bitreserve and Gold Bullion International. This partnership, according to a Forbes piece on the subject, “allows customers to store gold in their accounts and convert it to Bitcoin for online purchases.” While other global currencies have shied away from using the gold standard, Bitresterve is attempting to help bitcoin go more mainstream. As bitcoin has been under an immense amount of regulatory pressure and has a history of raising suspicion among those looking to invest in the unpredictable cryptocurrency market, bitcoin could use a reliable partner behind it. That’s where the purpose of the Bitreserve and the Gold Bullion International partnership comes through: credibility.

“Bitreserve is on a mission to democratize the use of digital currency by protecting businesses and consumers from the risks inherent in the bitcoin model,” Treveor Clawson wrote for Forbes.

That theory is echoed by the piece written by Marcela De Vivo, on behalf of  The Young Entrepreneur Council, who called the partnership a “unique move, considering how many global currencies have already abandoned the gold standard in recent decades.” He poses the question of why a consumer would use bitcoin as a currency when there are already e-wallet services accepted. But De Vivo defends the purpose of bitcoin, saying it’s more than just a currency.

“If Bitcoin hopes to attract enough users to make it viable in the mainstream marketplace, adopting the gold standard should help create an environment that attracts those outside the world of speculative investing,” he wrote. “If Bitcoin itself were currency, then there would be no reason to take those extra steps. However, Bitcoin is not a currency; it’s a platform. The true value of Bitcoin rests in its potential for innovation and equal opportunity in the global marketplace.”

When comparing bitcoins to the global remittance industry, the Forbes piece points out the cost difference to using bitcoin prices instead of companies like Western Union and MoneyGram, which charge customers more. As the article highlights, international remittance charge somewhere between 4-10 percent for a customer to send out and points out that “bank transfers can be equally costly. Depending on where the money is going, it can take several days or even weeks for a deposit to be collected and finalized.” But not with bitcoin. And that’s where it’s got its edge, the article suggests: “Bitcoin remittances. …cost 1-3 percent and the deposits are sent, collected and finalized in minutes.”

“Cutting out the middlemen will transform emerging global markets. Workers in these markets are burdened with global transaction fees that slow deliveries and cap collection. Conversely, bitcoin transactions make ordering from India just as simple and almost as fast as ordering from Canada,” De Vivo wrote.

While consumers and investors debate the value of investing in digital currencies like bitcoin, there’s always been an undeniable value in gold. Gold has and will always be deemed a precious metal and will, in some capacity, be valued as a mode of currency. Whether it be back in the days of the ancient Greece trading markets, or the cheesy modern-day commercials about investing in gold, there’s always been an audience for it. And in a recent interview, Savneet Singh, co-founder of Gold Bullion International discussed the future of gold in a digital currency world.

“Bitcoin has certainly increased the interest in gold — much of the intellectual pieces behind bitcoin have many parallels and analogs to gold, which has created a broader interest and awareness of the potential here,” he said. “Bitgold itself will aid in greater adoption of gold now that it allows for the spending and adoption of gold. But most importantly, bitgold makes gold easy to buy. The bitgold product will help the adoption of gold, but in the long run, it is hard to say what will happen; will everyone pursue bitcoin or gold, I’m not sure.”

Looking at how bitcoin — or bitgold, in this case — impacts the consumer economy, Singh said Bitreserve is aiming at making digital currencies more mainstream so consumers can see the value they hold in a global economy. Enabling consumers to be connected with the concept of bitcoin’s functionality is the first step toward wider-spread adoption in the industry, he says. 

“The adoption of any cryptocurrency, whether it’s bitcoin, bitgold, ripple, etc. helps everybody — it creates more usability and accessibility to the broader population. What I think is exciting about bitgold and what Bitreserve is doing, is that it makes it very easy to use, and that has been a big struggle with other applications using the Blockchain and bitcoin. From a consumer perspective, it almost humanizes it as a usable form of payment,” Singh said.

And right now, when Bitcoin is under fire, maybe being “humanized” is just what the doctor ordered.

Bitcoin Tracker | Week 61

Larry Summers may be softening as Summers expressed his belief that new payments technologies will emerge. Xapo’s founder remains totally enamored, calling bitcoin the world’s greatest form of money ever – past, present and future. Yet, some have compared bitcoin’s future to pogs. (Which isn’t exactly a great thing.) and another exchange folded after someone allegedly ran off with all of the money (Hong Kong dollars, not bitcoin). And with prices hovering between $215.44 and 219.05 according to the PYMNTS.com Bitcoin Price index, some wonder if $200 is the new normal.

As always, if you have any news you’d like to share, please send it our way at contactus@pymnts.com.

On the Plus Side … 

Summers, a former U.S. Treasury Secretary (and former Innovation Project speaker), has given a small nod to bitcoin, which is better than his previous skeptical comments. Summers supports the idea of removing the frictional costs and inefficiencies that exist in the global payments system.

  • Feb. 12, 2015 – If you’re running late on the Valentine’s Day gift, don’t worry, Bitcoin has your back with a list of gifts that may be purchased with bitcoin.
  • Feb. 12, 2015 – Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said that new payment technologies would become more ubiquitous eventually. Wasn’t quite a big endorsement, but Summers is an advisor to Andreesen Horowitz which has invested in bitcoin-related companies.
  • Feb. 12, 2015 – According to a Boston Retail Partners survey, 8 percent of retailers plan to accept bitcoin in 12 months.
  • Feb. 11, 2015 – Entrepreneur Wences Casares, who created Xapo, the largest custodian of bitcoin, said that “bitcoin may very well be the best form of money we’ve ever seen in the history of civilization.”
  • Feb. 11, 2015 – Global travel payment network UATP announced a partnership with Bitnet which will allow the over 260 airlines associated with UATP to accept Bitcoin as payment.
  • Feb. 11, 2015 – A new report from Juniper Research forecasts that the number of bitcoin and altcoin transactions will more than double by 2017 to reach 56 million. This is up from 18 million in 2013 and 27.7 million in 2014.
  • Feb. 11, 2015 – Bitcoin is blazing a new trail in emerging markets like Kenya, Uruguay and Panama.
  • February 11, 2015 – Australian bitcoin Company CoinJar has introduced a Hedged Accounts offering that pegs bitcoin to standard currencies like the U.S. dollar and pound sterling.
  • Feb. 9, 2015 – BitPesa, the startup that uses bitcoin to break into the remittance market has raised $1.1 million.

On the Dark Side …

Remember pogs? Of course you don’t. It was a game that was the “next big thing” that really wasn’t. Anyway, it’s how some have characterized bitcoin’s future – the pogs of money! A big trading and investment bitcoin site based in Hong Kong has come out to be nothing more than a classic Ponzi scheme when almost $400 million of U.S. dollars went missing.

  • Feb. 12, 2015 – The Bitcoin Foundation and its partners have hired a content firm to build social media buzz about bitcoin.
  • Feb. 11, 2015 –Citigroup’s Senior Vice President for Digital Strategies, Greg Baxter, is the latest to join the group of bitcoin skeptics.
  • Feb. 10, 2015 – MyCoin.hk, a Bitcoin trading and investment site based out of Hong Kong, lost $396.9 million worth of Bitcoin and fell into bankruptcy.
  • Feb. 10, 2015 – The Feds have seized $25,000 in bitcoin and litecoin from a Seattle resident in an ongoing investigation into what could be the largest ever software piracy case pursued by the government.
  • Feb. 10, 2015 – Bitcoin is dying and “will be remembered like pogs.”
  • Feb. 9, 2015 – Hong Kong’s central bank warned against investing in virtual currencies after media reports that a bitcoin exchange, ran off with client funds.
  • Feb. 9, 2015 – MyCoin is looking more similar to a classic Ponzi scheme than a legitimate exchange after it is reported that 3,000 clients have invested as much as $129,000 each.

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