Should You Buy Gold Or Bitcoin?
After its launch in 2009, Bitcoin ushered in a new era of blockchain technology and digital currencies. Given all the talk about Bitcoin, you’d think it would be everywhere. Is that really true? How much is Bitcoin worth? Perhaps more importantly, how much of the world’s money is in bitcoins?
In the past year or so, many analysts and others in the world of economics have predicted a recession. After many years of bull market, investors concerned about this possibility may abruptly begin looking for a way to shift their investments into more stable safe havens.
The traditional move would be to hedge against stock volatility with gold. This has proven an effective method in the past, but a newer alternative is challenging the old-school safe-haven. Launched in 2009, bitcoin ushered in a new era of digital currencies. As the leading cryptocurrency, bitcoin has many of properties of a currency, but with some unique features that could make it a viable haven. Ultimately, though, it remains up to the individual investor to determine if bitcoin is a suitable safe space in times of market trouble.
Below, we’ll compare gold and bitcoin as safe haven options.
Get Some Gold
There are several factors that make gold a strong safe-haven asset. It’s valuable as a material for consumer goods such as jewelry and electronics, and it is scarce. Regardless of demand, supply remains disproportionately low. Gold cannot be manufactured like a company issues new shares, or a federal bank prints money. It must be dug up from the ground and processed.
Accordingly, gold has almost no correlation with assets like currencies, and stock indices such as the S&P 500. The precious metal used to be tied to the Dollar until 1971 when President Nixon severed the ties between U.S. currency and gold as a base. Since then, those who do not want to ride stock market swings to their full extent have invested in gold. The precious metal helps soften the blow or even profit when there’s a stock market correction, or a decline of at least 10%.
Gold usually performs well during corrections because even if it doesn’t necessarily rise, an asset that remains static while others decline is quite useful as a hedge. Plus, as more people flee stocks and invest in gold, the price rises accordingly.
Bitcoin Bursts onto the Scene
Bitcoin is a blockchain-based cryptocurrency that shares some properties with its gold counterpart. In fact, many have called bitcoin “digital gold” in the past due to its weak relationship with all other assets-stocks especially. Market participants may remember in when the price of one bitcoin surpassed that of single troy ounce of gold for of bitcoin’s price above $8,700, but how so valuable?? importantly, should running from stocks consider investing the cryptocurrency?
gold, bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, pseudonymous creator bitcoin, limited the million Bitcoin like gold that not issued by central bank federal government. As a decentralized cryptocurrency, bitcoin is generated collective computing power to verify transactions which take on the network and are rewarded for time, computing power, and effort bitcoins. ensure that the market isn’t flooded, Bitcoin protocol stipulates bitcoin issued about
Comparing the Two
For hundreds of gold has dominated the safe-haven arena, bitcoin launched just over decade ago has only achieved widespread recognition last investment head-to-head:
Transparency, Safety, Legality
Gold’s established system for trading, weighing and tracking pristine. very hard to pass fake gold, to otherwise corrupt the Bitcoin is difficult corrupt, thanks its encrypted, decentralized system and complicated algorithms, but the infrastructure to ensure its safety is not yet in place. The Mt. Gox disaster is a good example of why bitcoin traders must be wary. In this disruptive event, popular exchange went offline, and about $460 million worth of user bitcoins went missing. Many years later, the legal ramifications of the Mt. Gox situation are still being resolved.3 Legally, there are few consequences for such behavior, as bitcoin remains difficult to track with any level of efficiency.
Both gold and bitcoin are rare resources. The halving of Bitcoin’s mining reward ensures that all 21 million Bitcoin will be out in circulation by the year 2140. While we know that there is only 21 million bitcoin that exist, It is unknown when all the world’s gold will be mined from the earth. There is also speculation that gold can be mined from asteroids, and there are even some companies looking to do this in the future.
Gold has historically been used in many applications, from luxury items like jewelry to specialized applications in dentistry, electronics, and more. In addition to ushering in a new focus on blockchain technology, bitcoin itself has tremendous baseline value as well. Billions of people around the world lack access to banking infrastructure and traditional means of finance like credit. With bitcoin, these individuals can send value across the globe for close to no fee. Bitcoin’s true potential as a means of banking for those without access to traditional banks has perhaps yet to be fully developed.
Both gold and bitcoin have very liquid markets where fiat money can exchanged for them.
One major concern for investors looking toward bitcoin as safe haven its volatility. One need look only price history of bitcoin in the last two years for evidence. At its highest point, around the beginning of 2018, bitcoin reached price of about $20,000 per year later, the price of one bitcoin hovered around $4,000. It has since recovered a portion of those losses, but is nowhere near its one-time high price point.
Besides overall historically proven itself to be subject market whims and news. Particularly as the boom swept number of digital currencies into record high prices around the end of 2017, news from the digital currency sphere could prompt investors to make quick decisions, sending the price of bitcoin upward or downward quickly. This volatility is not inherent to gold for reasons mentioned above, making it perhaps a safer asset.
In recent years, a number of alternative cryptocurrencies have launched which aim to provide more stability than bitcoin. Tether, for instance, is one of these so called “stablecoins.” Tether is linked with the U.S. dollar in much the same way that gold was prior to the 1970s. Investors looking for less volatility than bitcoin may wish to actually look elsewhere in the digital currency space for safe havens.
What Determines the Price of 1 Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency developed in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, the name given to the unknown creator (or creators) of this virtual currency. Transactions are recorded in a blockchain, which shows the transaction history for each unit and is used to prove ownership.
Buying a bitcoin is different than purchasing a stock or bond because bitcoin is not a corporation. Consequently, there are no corporate balance sheets or Form 10-Ks to review. And unlike investing in traditional currencies, bitcoin it is not issued by a central bank or backed by a government, therefore the monetary policy, inflation rates, and economic growth measurements that typically influence the value of currency do not apply to bitcoin. Contrarily, bitcoin prices are influenced by the following factors:
- The supply of bitcoin and market demand for it .
- The cost of producing a bitcoin through the mining process.
- The rewards issued to bitcoin miners for verifying transactions to the blockchain.
- The number of competing cryptocurrencies
- The exchanges it trades on.
- Regulations governing its sale
- Its internal governance
- Buying a bitcoin is different than buying a stock or bond because it’s not a corporation. Consequently, there are no corporate balance sheets or Form 10-Ks to review.
- Unlike investing in traditional currencies, bitcoin it is not issued by a central bank or backed by a government, therefore the monetary policy, inflation rates, and economic growth measurements that typically influence the value of currency do not apply to bitcoin.
- Bitcoin pricing is influenced by factors such as: the supply of bitcoin and market demand for it, the number of competing cryptocurrencies, and the exchanges it trades on.
Supply and Demand
Countries without fixed foreign exchange rates can partially control how much of their currency circulates by adjusting the discount rate, changing reserve requirements, or engaging in open-market operations. With these options, a central bank can potentially impact a currency’s exchange rate.
The supply of bitcoin is impacted in two different ways. First, the bitcoin protocol allows new bitcoins to be created at a fixed rate. New bitcoins are introduced into the market when miners process blocks of transactions and the rate at which new coins are introduced is designed to slow over time. Case in point: growth has slowed from 6.9% (2016), to 4.4% (2017) to 4.0% (2018). This can create scenarios in which the demand for bitcoins increases at a faster rate than the supply increases, which can drive up the price. The slowing of bitcoin circulation growth is due to the halving of block rewards offered to bitcoin miners and can be thought of as artificial inflation for the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
Secondly, supply may also be impacted by the number of bitcoins the system allows to exist. This number is capped at 21 million, where once this number is reached, mining activities will no longer create new bitcoins. For example the supply of bitcoin reached 18.1 million in December 2019, representing 86.2% of the supply of bitcoin that will ultimately be made available. Once 21 million bitcoins are in circulation, prices depend on whether it is considered practical (readily usable in transactions), legal, and in demand, which is determined by the popularity of other cryptocurrencies. The artificial inflation mechanism of the halving of block rewards will no longer have an impact on the price of the cryptocurrency. However, at the current rate of adjustment of block rewards, the last bitcoin is not set to be mined until the year 2140 or so.
While bitcoin may be the most well-known cryptocurrency, there are hundreds of other tokens vying for user attention. While bitcoin is still the dominant option with regard to market capitalization, altcoins including ether (ETH), XRP, bitcoin cash (BCH), litecoin (LTC) and EOS are among its closest competitors as of January 2020.2 Further, new initial coin offerings (ICOs) are constantly on the horizon, due to the relatively few barriers to entry. The crowded field is good news for investors because the widespread competition keeps prices down. Fortunately for bitcoin, its high visibility gives it an edge over its competitors.
Cost of Production
While bitcoins are virtual, they are nonetheless produced products and incur a real cost of production with electricity consumption being the most important factor by far. Bitcoin ‘mining’ as it is called, relies on a complicated cryptographic math problem that miners all compete to solve the first one to do so is rewarded with a block of newly minted bitcoins and any transaction fees that have been accumulated since the last block was found. What is unique about bitcoin production is that unlike other produced goods, bitcoin’s algorithm only allows for one block of bitcoins to be found, on average, once every ten minutes. That means the more producers (miners) that join in the competition for solving the math problem only have the effect of making that problem more difficult – and thus more expensive to solve in order to preserve that ten-minute interval.
Research has shown that indeed bitcoin’s market price is closely related to its marginal cost of production.
Availability on Currency Exchanges
Just as equity investors trade stocks over indexes like the NYSE, Nasdaq, and the FTSE, cryptocurrency investors trade cryptocurrencies over Coinbase, GDAX, and other exchanges. Similar to traditional currency exchanges, these platforms let investors trade cryptocurrency/currency pairs (e.g. BTC/USD or bitcoin/U.S. dollar).
The more popular an exchange becomes, the easier it may draw in additional participants, to create a network effect. And by capitalizing on its market clout, it may set rules governing how other currencies are added. For example, the release of the Simple Agreement for Future Tokens (SAFT) framework seeks to define how ICOS could comply with securities regulations. Bitcoin’s presence on these exchanges implies a level of regulatory compliance, regardless of the legal gray area in which cryptocurrencies operate.
Regulations and Legal Matters
The rapid rise in the popularity of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has caused regulators to debate how to classify such digital assets. While the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) classifies cryptocurrencies as securities, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) considers bitcoin to be a commodity. This confusion over which regulator will set the rules for cryptocurrencies has created uncertainty despite the surging market capitalizations. Furthermore, the market has witnessed the rollout of many financial products that use bitcoin as an underlying asset, such as exchange-traded funds (ETFS), futures, and other derivatives.
This can impact prices in two ways. First, it provides bitcoin access to investors who cannot afford to purchase an actual bitcoin, thus increasing demand. Second, it can reduce price volatility by allowing institutional investors who believe bitcoin futures are overvalued or undervalued, to use their substantial resources to make bets that bitcoin’s price will move in the opposite direction.
Forks and Governance Stability
Because bitcoin is not governed by a central authority, it relies on developers and miners to process transactions and keep the blockchain secure. Changes to software are consensus driven, which tends to frustrate the bitcoin community. as fundamental issues typically take a long time to resolve.
The issue of scalability has been a particular pain point. The number of transactions that can be processed depends on the size of blocks, and bitcoin software is currently only able to process approximately three transactions per second. While this wasn’t a concern when there was little demand for cryptocurrencies, many worry that slow transaction speeds will push investors towards competitive cryptocurrencies.
The community is divided over the best way to increase the number of transactions. Changes to the rules governing the use of the underlying software is called “forks”. “Soft forks” pertain to rule changes that do not result in the creation of a new cryptocurrency, while “hard fork” software changes result in new cryptocurrencies. Past bitcoin hard forks have included bitcoin cash and bitcoin gold.
Should You Invest in Bitcoin
Many compare the rapid appreciation of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to the speculative bubble created by Tulip mania in the Netherlands in the 17th century. While it is broadly important for regulators to protect investors, it will likely take years before the global impact of cryptocurrencies is truly felt.
How Much of All Money Is in Bitcoin?
After its launch in 2009, Bitcoin ushered in a new era of blockchain technology and digital currencies. Given all the talk about Bitcoin, you’d think it would be everywhere. Is that really true? How much is Bitcoin worth? Perhaps more importantly, how much of the world’s money is in bitcoins? With the price of bitcoin at 8,790.51 U.S. dollars as of March 4, 2020, it is certainly worth our time to figure it out.
- A bitcoin was worth 8,790.51 U.S. dollars as of March 4, 2020.
- All the bitcoins in the world were worth roughly $160.4 billion.
- Bitcoin accounted for just 0.4% of the world’s money.
- Bitcoin was worth only about 1.6% as much as the world’s gold supply.
- All cryptocurrencies combined accounted for less than 0.7% of the world’s money.
How Much Is Bitcoin Worth?
We will calculate the total value of Bitcoin first because that is the easy part. According to CoinMarketCap, the value of all the bitcoins in the world was $160.4 billion as of March 4, 2020. For comparison, Forbes estimated the net worth of Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos at $115.5 billion. That makes the 1 market cap of Bitcoin just over a third larger than Bezos’ fortune.
Bitcoin and the Money Supply
To get a sense of how much of the world’s money is in bitcoins, we must determine the total amount of money. As it turns out, this is not the easiest question to answer. Such a calculation might take into account dozens of categories of wealth, including bank notes, precious metals, money market accounts, and debt. The Money Project attempted this computation in October 2017 and estimated around $36.8 trillion in global narrow money. As of March 2020, this number is surely outdated. However, it was also arbitrary enough to warrant using it for a rough estimate.2
That leaves Bitcoin at about 0.4% of the estimated value of narrow money from The Money Project’s report.
The Money Project’s estimate gives a good general idea of the size of the money supply relative to Bitcoin. However, it is much less accurate than the other estimates used in this article.
Bitcoin vs. Gold
How does Bitcoin compare to gold? After all, some people still consider gold to be the real money. It is certainly the gold standard to which other currencies must be compared. We begin with the World Gold Council’s figures. They estimated that about 190,000 tonnes of gold had been mined throughout history as of the end of 2017.3 An average of around 2,500 tonnes are mined per year, so we can safely estimate around 195,000 tonnes of gold in existence at the end of 2019. There are 32,150.7 troy ounces of gold in one tonne, and the price of gold per ounce was $1,615.50.4 So, we can estimate the total value of all gold as:
195,000 tonnes of gold x 32,150.7 troy ounces per tonne x $1,615.50 per ounce = $10.1 trillion
In total, the value of all bitcoin was about 1.6% of the value of all gold.
Bitcoin is the largest and best-known cryptocurrency in the global economy. However, it is far from the only one. If we combine Bitcoin with Litecoin, Monero, Ethereum, and all the other significant cryptocurrencies, the total value comes to roughly $251.8 billion. 5
That is still a bit less than 0.7% of the value of all narrow money given above.
Why Bitcoin Has a Volatile Value
Price fluctuations in the bitcoin spot rate on cryptocurrency exchanges are driven by many factors. Volatility is measured in traditional markets by the Volatility Index, also known as the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX). More recently, a volatility index for bitcoin has also become available. Known as the Bitcoin Volatility Index, it aims to track the volatility of the world’s leading digital currency by market cap over various periods of time.¹
Bitcoin’s value has been historically quite volatile. In a three-month span from October of 2017 to January of 2018, for instance, the volatility of the price of bitcoin reached to nearly 8%. This is more than twice the volatility of bitcoin in the 30-day period ending January 15, 2020.¹ But why is bitcoin so volatile? Here are just a few of the many factors behind bitcoin’s volatility.
Bad News Hurts Adoption Rate
News events that scare bitcoin users include geopolitical events and statements by governments that bitcoin is likely to be regulated. Bitcoin’s early adopters included several bad actors, producing headline news stories that produced fear in investors.
Headline-making bitcoin news over the decade or so of the cryptocurrency’s existence includes the bankruptcy of Mt. Gox in early 2014 and, more recently, that of the South Korean exchange Yapian Youbit. Other news stories which shocked investors include the high-profile use of bitcoin in drug transactions via Silk Road that ended with the FBI shutdown of the marketplace in October 2013.
All these incidents and the public panic that ensued drove the value of bitcoins versus fiat currencies down rapidly. However, bitcoin-friendly investors viewed those events as evidence that the market was maturing, driving the value of bitcoins versus the dollar markedly back up in the short period immediately following the news events.
Bitcoin’s Perceived Value Sways
One reason why bitcoin may fluctuate against fiat currencies is the perceived store of value versus the fiat currency. Bitcoin has properties that make it similar to gold. It is governed by design decision by the developers of the core technology to limit its production to a fixed quantity of 21 million BTC.
Since that differs markedly from fiat currency, which is dynamically managed by governments who want to maintain low inflation, high employment, and satisfactory growth through investment in capital resources, as economies built with fiat currencies show signs of strength or weakness, investors may allocate more or less of their assets into bitcoin.
Uncertainty of Future Bitcoin’s Value
Bitcoin volatility is also driven in large part by varying perceptions of the intrinsic value of the cryptocurrency as a store of value and method of value transfer. A store of value is the function by which an asset can be useful in the future with some predictability. A store of value can be saved and exchanged for some good or service in the future.
A method of value transfer is any object or concept used to transmit property in the form of assets from one party to another. Bitcoin’s volatility at the present makes it a somewhat unclear store of value, but it promises nearly frictionless value transfer. As a result, we see that bitcoin’s value can swing based on news events much as we observe with fiat currencies.
Large Currency Holder Risks
Bitcoin volatility is also to an extent driven by holders of large proportions of the total outstanding float of the currency. For bitcoin investors with current holdings above around $10M, it is not clear how they would liquidate a position that large into a fiat position without severely moving the market. Indeed, it may not be clear how they would liquidate a position of that size in a short period of time at all, as most cryptocurrency exchanges impose 24-hour withdrawal limits far below that threshold.
Bitcoin has not reached the mass market adoption rates that would be necessary to provide option value to large holders of the currency.
Security Breaches Cause Volatility
Bitcoin can also become volatile when the bitcoin community exposes security vulnerabilities in an effort to produce massive open source responses in the form of security fixes. This approach to security is paradoxically one that produces great outcomes, with many valuable open source software initiatives to its credit, including Linux. Bitcoin developers must reveal security concerns to the public in order to produce robust solutions.
It was a hack that drove the Yapian Youbit to bankruptcy, while many other cryptocurrencies have also made headlines for being hacked or having stashes of cryptocurrencies stolen. As an early example, in April 2014, the OpenSSL vulnerabilities attacked by the Heartbleed bug and reported by Google security’s, Neel Mehta, drove Bitcoin prices down by 10% in a month.
Bitcoin and open source software development are built upon the same fundamental premise that a copy of the source code is available to users to examine. This concept makes it the responsibility of the community to voice concerns about the software design, just as it is the responsibility of the community to come to consensus about modifications to that underlying source code as well. Because of the open conversation and debate regarding the Bitcoin network, security breaches tend to be highly publicized.
High-Profile Losses Raise Fear
It is worth noting that the aforementioned thefts and the ensuing news about the losses had a double effect on volatility. They reduced the overall float of bitcoin, producing a potential lift on the value of the remaining bitcoin due to increased scarcity. However, overriding this lift was the negative effect of the news cycle that followed.
Notably, other bitcoin gateways looked to the massive failure at Mt. Gox as a positive for the long term prospects of bitcoin, further complicating the already complex story behind the currency’s volatility. As early adopting firms were eliminated from the market due to poor management and dysfunctional processes, later entrants learn from their errors and build stronger processes into their own operations, strengthening the infrastructure of the cryptocurrency overall.
High-Inflation Nations and Bitcoins
Bitcoin’s use case as a currency for developing countries that are currently experiencing high inflation is valuable when considering the volatility of bitcoin in these economies versus the volatility of bitcoin in USD. Bitcoin is much more volatile versus USD than the high-inflation Argentine peso versus the USD.
That being said, the near frictionless transfer of bitcoins across borders makes it a potentially highly attractive borrowing instrument for Argentineans, as the high inflation rate for peso-denominated loans potentially justifies taking on some intermediate currency volatility risk i a bitcoin-denominated loan funded outside Argentina.
Similarly, funders outside Argentina can earn a higher return under this scheme than they can by using other debt instruments, denominated in their home currency, potentially offsetting some of the risks of exposure to the high inflation Argentine market.
Tax Treatment Lifts Volatility
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), bitcoin is actually considered an asset for tax purposes.3 This has had a mixed impact on bitcoin’s volatility. On the upside, any statement recognizing the currency has a positive effect on the market valuation of the currency.
Conversely, the decision by the IRS to call it property had at least two negative effects. The first was the added complexity for users who want to use it as a form of payment. Under the new tax law, users would have to record the market value of the currency at the time of every transaction, no matter how small. This need for record keeping can understandably slow adoption as it seems to be too much trouble for what it is worth for many users.
Secondly, the decision to call the currency a form of property for tax purposes may be a signal to some market participants that the IRS is preparing to enforce stronger regulations later. Very strong regulation of the currency could cause the adoption rate of the currency to slow to the point where it is not able to achieve the mass adoption that is critical for its overall utility in society. Recent moves by the IRS are not clear as to their signaling motive ar erefore have mixed signals to the market for bitcoin.