It’s up, it’s down, and news about it is all around. The sentiments apply to bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies of all stripes — and the exchanges on which they trade. The news at this writing was, of course, the notching of new highs for bitcoin — touching roughly $17,500 apiece. The boost was aided by the launch of the cryptocurrency on the U.S. futures exchange.
Ah, the exchanges. They suffer the vagaries of crypto excitement, too. Consider the fact that GDAX, a bitcoin exchange, was down and out for a bit on Monday. Reports noted that the infrastructure that supports the buying and selling of the digital coinage has a tough time satisfying the demand. In another example of downtime, Coinbase shuttered the trading of Ethereum twice on Tuesday. And in further Coinbase news, David Marcus has joined as a new board member, and maintains his role as vice president of messaging for Facebook.
Hacks? They were there. Bitfinex, which is based in Hong Kong and which is the biggest exchange in the world, fell victim to another cyberattack, and in turn suspended trading amid distributed denial of service attacks.
Regulation? But of course. The big focus this week, arguably, was South Korea, where the government held an emergency meeting about regulating cryptos Wednesday. The country is the third largest market for digital currencies, behind Japan and the United States. Fortune noted that bitcoin has topped $22,000 there. You may recall that ICOs were banned there by the government earlier this year, eyeing fraudulent and criminal activities such as money laundering. And in other news there, the government has said it would look into taxing capital gains on trading.
And in an effort to make bitcoin a bit more mainstream, Japanese Internet company GMO Internet Group has said that starting early next year, employees will be able to receive part of their salaries in bitcoin — ranging from as little as the USD equivalent of $88 to as much as $882.
But amid all the frenzy over new highs notched in pricing, it might serve us well to remember that bitcoin is not just for speculation. Some merchants are embracing cryptocurrency whole-heartedly.
Nizhoni Ranch Gallery, located southeast of Tucson, focuses on Navajo weavings and rugs and Native American jewelry and pottery. The company this week announced it would start accepting bitcoin for transactions.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Gail Getzwiller, co-founder the business, she said that accepting bitcoin (and Ethereum) is a timely decision. “I’ve been aware of bitcoin for quite a while,” she said, noting that she had observed the early price fluctuations when it was $500 and $1,000. That was a time of learning how the cryptos work — she was hesitant at the beginning and unsure whether to consider digital currencies as a method of payment. It was “an exciting time, but it wasn’t as accepted as making its way into the currency marketplace…there were a lot of naysayers, and so I waited,” she told PYMNTS.
But recently, she claimed the finance world, other stores — and countries in general — are starting to accept this as a “currency for the future.”
Though at the time of the Thursday interview, she said there had yet to be a bitcoin-based transaction — Getzwiller’s gallery “would like to expand our markets,” and there are people who have bitcoin saved up. “We want to be one of those galleries that will accept the bitcoin without having to change it to another currency [and expand the company’s markets].” All items on the site can be purchased with a bitcoin — even using fractions of bitcoin.
She noted that wider-spread acceptance has come into play, with Microsoft, Overstock and PayPal all embracing the digital currency, heightening awareness and enthusiasm.
The lure is that the currency is directly between me and the purchaser. They send the bitcoin and then Nizhoni Ranch Gallery sends them the item that they are purchasing “and so it is a simple way to make a direct transaction with someone.”
Getzwiller said the gallery typically does orders over the phone — and with the acceptance of bitcoin, “it is a fairly easy transaction,” she said. Much of the traditional model will remain intact as the company purchases all of the art that it sells, in U.S. dollars, and the gallery commissions pieces from Navajo weavers that may take one or two years to finish. Those artisans are sent money ever week or two, through money orders, as payment against their projects. Upon payment from end customers, the gallery will transfer the bitcoin to U.S. dollars, with an eye on balancing the books.
She told PYMNTS that business owners are “accepting of the fact that bitcoin is going to be around and it may fluctuate but in the future it is a good business move.” She said, “I like to give my clients all the options for payments,” adding that “in business you like to do things that add freshness and newness to keep you out there and keep people interested in what you are doing. I’m hoping cryptocurrency and bitcoin will do that for us.
“Our main goal is to support Native Americans and keep their traditions going. The Native people have always had….a connection with the energy of the universe. And in a way,” she told PYMNTS, “this a new energy coming into our universe.”