The bitcoin-fiat exchange market has exploded over the last year, but it isn’t alone. In 2015, amid currency swings in the Russian ruble and the Euro among others, an increasing number of traders are looking to gold as a natural fit for their bitcoin holdings.
The debate surrounding the relative merits of bitcoin and gold as a store of value has been passively continuing since the first trading options appeared several years ago. On paper, the similarities between the two assets are easy to see: a finite amount, almost infinite divisibility into smaller amounts, a mining process to make them usable.
As cryptocurrency trading has opened up, however, investors who had previously had nothing to do with the gold market have found themselves in possession of a gold-like commodity – Bitcoin. In the face of bitcoin’s volatility, decreasing as it may be, they have been looking to secure their wealth in a way which does not make them vulnerable to the pitfalls of bitcoin-fiat trading: constant market tracking or trusting a third party to track it for them, declaration of profits (jurisdiction-dependent) and others.
The advent of bitcoin-gold trading options – not just professional platforms but simple merchants allowing purchase of precious metals with bitcoin such as Amagi Metals and DigitalTangible – has meant that investors have unprecedented easy access to the gold market. More than this, bitcoin allows for considerably less paperwork, money transfer fees and the ability to trade a lot more flexibly which goes along with these benefits.
A new type of gold investor
While DigitalTangible was the first operation in the world to create a 100% online Bitcoin-gold marketplace, customer reserves being stored in a Swiss bank vault and recorded using Counterparty, the one-stop-shop approach for gold acquisition has been expanding considerably. As of February 2015, it is even possible to purchase gold and silver from a Bitcoin ATM.
Joshua Scigala, whose company Vaultoro became the first real-time bitcoin-gold exchange on launching in February 2015, says the ease with which bitcoin can be used for wealth security should make it an infinitely preferable option to investors as time goes on.
“When I first started trading gold I would see an opportunity and want to buy, then would have to fund my gold trading account with dollars, taking 4 – 5 working days because it was an international transfer. I remember paying around US$30 in transfer fees for a US$2000 transfer and to top it all off there was a relatively large minimum buy. Talk about aggravating,” he told Cointelegraph. “Then when I needed the cash again you would have to go through the whole expensive and time-consuming process in reverse. With bitcoin, we can do it within 1 hour for an unlimited amount of money and the cost of around 2 cent miners fee.”
Scigala created Vaultoro, which also stores user funds in Swiss vaults – even in their own name – not only to target lay investor but as a way of empowering those for whom fiat trading is out of the question. Specifically, the strain of adhering to stringent anti-money laundering requirements faced by fiat exchanges all but shuts down unbanked users in developing countries from benefiting from Bitcoin security.
“I see gold as a great way to hedge against the volatile bitcoin market without the massive KYC regulatory burden that comes with fiat trading,” he continued. “Try getting KYC compliant documents from some unbanked person in south Saharan Africa! They need to hedge but can’t, and this is where Vaultoro steps in. For the first time the unbanked in developing countries have the opportunity to hold gold in investment-grade Swiss vaults.”
The Vaultoro model could well become a pervasive one. While many options exist for traditional investors in the developed world, to empower those untouched by the banking system would take the significance and prevalence of gold investment to a uniquely personal level. Like mobile remittances, it would also provide another method of funds control completely separate from banks.
Cointelegraph reached out to Scigala for more information on his background and the Vaultoro project.
Cointelegraph: What do you think about the idea of Bitcoin becoming more popular for gold trading? How and why do you see growth expanding in this market?
Joshua Scigala: We see people that got into Bitcoin because they wanted to be part of an alternative economy. The problem is that the alternative economy we all enjoy is priced and hedged in the debt-based centrally-controlled fiat currency that we all wanted to leave behind.
Gold compared to bitcoin is relatively stable and it’s also a great place to park your wealth when sleeping. I have heard from many traders (and their partners) that bitcoin trading really disrupts sleep because you never know what you’re going to wake up with; with gold the price might move a little but you know you will wake up with a similar amount than when you went to sleep.
Moving away from fiat is generally a good idea and something like gold has stood the test of time for a good store of value to trade in and out of. Time is money and money is bitcoin and gold, I like to say!
CT: The bitcoin/ gold argument is one which is often discussed. Do you think bitcoin has the ability to become a store of value which rivals gold?
JS: Maybe one day, once bitcoin has found its “fair price” but currently people still find it hard to quantify bitcoin’s value. I feel that bitcoin is worth a lot more than where we are now but the volatility really means the market has no clue yet and is still figuring it out.
Throughout history Gold has mostly been used to back currencies because it’s too heavy to carry around and every day I hear more and more traders wanting to back their bitcoin value with physical gold. Why? Because it’s another private asset that is globally recognized as value, and just like bitcoin, it’s borderless.
CT: What made you get into this sector and start Vaultoro?
JS: I have been obsessed with Bitcoin since it reached parity to the dollar, for me Bitcoin represents a peaceful evolution out of the crazy global financial mess the world has found itself in. I instantly saw the potential and threw myself down the rabbit hole.
In late 2013 I got smacked with the closure of Mt. Gox (or ‘Empty Gox’ as I like to write it). It infuriated me because I saw this beautifully elegant way of revolutionizing the global financial order and instead we got uneducated news story after news story about how the CEO of Bitcoin had taken everything and run or that Bitcoin had been hacked. None of it was true of course; we simply had an exchange with no transparency steal or incompetently handle its liabilities.
This inspired me to create the most transparent exchange in the industry, an exchange that would show the world how to have radical transparency while keeping user privacy in check. I wanted an exchange that would be both publicly and privately auditable; I wanted an exchange that would be inclusive to the whole world and an exchange that was bank and fiat independent for its users.
We raised some money and started work, and one year later I am proud to say we’ve launched the world’s first real-time bitcoin-gold exchange and after two short months have had 600 members sign up and more than 3,000 grams of gold traded. The gold is secured in their name in vaults within Switzerland, which means that even if something were to happen to Vaultoro.com, they can always get access to their gold.
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