- Personal Finance
What Are BitCoins? Should I Invest In Them?
What Are Bitcoins?
Having first come to light in around 2008/9, Bitcoin is an ‘online only digital currency’ with no central bank controlling its actions. Each Bitcoin is contained within your 'wallet' on your PC. You are able to buy things using Bitcoins or trade them at various Bitcoin exchanges.
Think of it like this.
- Each Bitcoin is individual (i.e. has its own individual number so to speak).
- When storing a Bitcoin a person has a ‘wallet’ which is not online. It is in an offline wallet folder on your computer or hard drive etc.
- In order to trade Bitcoins you simply send them over to another persons wallet. All of which is anonymous (i.e. no names or addresses involved)...
As such, you have the basics for what some have called an ‘online currency’...
What makes Bitcoin so interesting is its method of generation. Instead of the designer of Bitcoin being in control of the creation of new coins, a complex cryptographic algorythm is in place so that a fixed number of coins are created. Each month the total number of coins being created by this algorythm will decrease until eventually the number of Bitcoins in existence will be a fixed 21 million.
Whilst 21 million may seem a lot of Bitcoins to be in existence, it is really not when you consider that it is a global digital currency and there are over 6 billion people in the world. This is reflected in the fact that prices are currently over $300 for just ONE Bitcoin!
Where Can I Get BitCoins?
There are a few ways that you can get hold of Bitcoins.
The first is through what is called Bitcoin mining. As mentioned earlier, there are new coins created (up to a fixed number each month). These are distributed between Bitcoin miners who will run high processing power PCs to help solve the current blockchain. However, it would be unrealistic to try and do this on a normal pc. It would cost more in electricity than would be returned in Bitcoins. The majority of miners making profit through Bitcoins will run specially designed mining 'rigs' that are hundreds of times better than a normal PC.
This brings us to the other way of getting hold of bitcoins; through bitcoin exchanges. There are a number of Bitcoin exchanges that you can use to buy or sell Bitcoins. We are not going to reccomend any here but if you do a quick search on Google and check for reviews you should find one that suits your needs. Also, you can send Bitcoins directly to other people very simply using your wallet.
Another fun way of earning Bitcoins is through gambling or the playing of games on certain websites. One example of this, Primedice, lets users gamble Bitcoins on a simple roll dice game. There are however many other different games that will let you earn when you compete against other people. Coin Flapper is a great example of this. This flappy bird clone lets you compete against other players in a tournament style game. The person that ranks top will win a small BTC prize.
It all sounds far too easy and good to be true. A decentralised currency which is not being controlled by one government (and so is thus unregulated). It would also consequently mean that if your countries currency started to hyperinflate and become worthless (much like what happened in Zimbabwe) your Bitcoins would still be safe as they are not linked to any country.
It must be said that whilst it is rare for a currency to become totally worthless, it has happened on numerous occasions in the past. Personally though, we would still reccomend gold as a safer option if your worried about the value of your currency. The Bitcoin market fluctuates too much to be seen as a 'safe' investment for your money.
What Are The Problems With Bitcoins?
- Massive Price Increases & Fluctuations – It was not so long ago that the Bitcoin was worth under $100 each. However, over the past few years Bitcoins have seen massive price increases and falls and is thus not seen as stable by investors. Many traditional investors shun the idea of cryptocurrencies being a good investment for their money.
- Hacks on Bitcoin Exchanges – Over the past few years there have been a number of hacks on Bitcoin exchanges and in some cases have even forced the exchange to close down as a result. A good example of this is the 'MtGox' which was once one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in the world. In July 2014, it was announced that MtGox was going into liquidation as 850 000 Bitcoins had been stolen. At the time many were confused as to how this could happen. The equivalent of $450 million cannot simply just disapper.
- Limited Availability – There are only so many bitcoins being released each month and so the limited availability is in part the reason why the prices have increased so much. We cannot discount the fact that some of the price increases may be purely down to speculative investors though. With only 21 million Bitcoins ever being created and the date of completion to be sometime in 2020 it would look like the prices of Bitcoins wont be going down at all.
Given all these negatives...
Should I Invest In BitCoins?
Personally, we believe that Bitcoins can never be seen as anything more than a speculative investment for your money. Whilst, there will be some people who have made a lot of money through owning Bitcoins, the prices fluctuate alot and consequently traditional investors are put off by the idea.
The one attractive prospect to purchasing Bitcoins for us was the fact that there will only ever be 21 million created. Once the supply stops, there is a chance that the price may start to increase as the demand increases as well. However, this is all speculation and we cannot swear to you that they are going to increase in price. There could of course be some other event happen which could cause their price to increase dramatically.