Bitcoins are widely called “digital gold,” so it's fitting that many crypto fans like their physical gold, too. Several companies have sprung up in the last two years to serve this bitcoins-to-gold market.
Why buy gold? Some choose it as a savings instrument, others a trading commodity, and still others as a fiat-free hedge against crypto volatility. Whatever your purpose, the following five companies may pop up onto your radar:
This San Francisco-based company was rebranded this year from the name DigitalTangible. They've been called a “trailblazer in the gold-bitcoin space” for launching the first online gold/bitcoin trading platform last year.
Serica uses Counterparty tokens (colored bitcoins) to issue “proof-of-custody” certificates for the gold, which is held in vaults in either Delaware (U.S.) or Singapore. Serica doesn't require government papers to use its services.
Serica also pays bitcoins to sellers who mail them their gold though their Bitcoin4Gold program.
Joshua Scigala is reported to have lost a chunk of change in Mt. Gox's collapse, and he went on to found Vaultoro as a “glass books” bitcoin-gold exchange.
The exchange uses three types of bitcoin wallets. They include “a hot wallet that is hosted online and used for daily trades, a warm wallet for auditing purpose that holds an amount of Bitcoin slightly above the amount in the hot wallet, and finally, mutisignature cold wallets, which hold the majority of users' funds.”
Vaultoro's vaults are located in Switzerland, and are audited bi-annually by BDO International. No government papers are required to purchase through Vaultoro unless the user buys more than US$5000 worth of gold per day. Services are not offered to anyone from Iran, Syria or North Korea.
MRCoin is the meta-cryptocurrency (colored bitcoin) of Thailand-based Midas Rezerv. One MRCoin represents one gram of gold bullion, stored at one of several vaults across the world: Dubai, Amsterdam, or Hong Kong.
An audit of Midas Rezerv's holdings is regularly published on the bitcoin blockchain itself.
Midas Rezerv does not act as an exchange, but rather a MRCoin seller and wallet provider. They require no government papers to use their service.
With offices in both San Francisco and Shanghai, Bitreserve acts as a counterparty between bitcoins and a handful of fiat currencies, including U.S. dollars, yuan and euros. They convert them back and forth between one another on demand to allow spending in the currency of one's choice.
Bitreserve claims to have US$1,664,187 worth of currencies in their vault as of today. This amount is published via their “Reservechain™” and “Reserveledger™” systems. (Their site does not list the physical location where these currencies are stored).
And yes, those are trademark symbols you see. Bitreserve claims ownership of some commonly-used words, including “bitsilver” and “bitgold.”
A phone number is required to start an account, and government papers are only required “when certain account limits have been exceeded” or if you claim residency in China.
This Canada-based bitcoin-to-gold reserve service must not have gotten the memo that Bitreserve owns the word “bitgold.” And still BitGold manages to offer customers some unique services.
Among them is the BitGold Mastercard, which acts as a debit/credit card that draws on the customer's gold holdings with the company. They also have their own ATMs, called BitGold ATMs, which allow the immediate purchase of gold to one's account within 1% of spot price.
The gold is stored in “Brinks in Toronto, New York, London, Zurich, Hong Kong, and Singapore among others.” Government papers are required to use the service.
Golden Opportunities, Etc.
Though it doesn't fit our category of outright owning gold, BitShares is worth a mention as it offers gold futures trading. Smart futures contracts are available in “BitAsset” tokens called bitGold (don't tell Bitreserve!).
And for those interested in physically holding gold themselves, Amagi Metals has been accepting Bitcoin for precious metals since 2012. The Amagi team are such fans of various cryptocurrencies that beginning in 2016, they'll no longer accept fiat. Veldt Gold also buys and sells precious metals for Bitcoin, and has never accepted credit cards as a matter of principle.
Lastly, remember that whenever you let someone else hold your property (in this case gold), you're taking on trusted third-party risk. This means that any of these companies could decide to make off with your metals in the night. This is where market reputation, due diligence, and risk management come into play. Don't let a third party hold anything that you can't afford to lose, and be certain of the terms of delivery should you ever wish to take physical possession of the gold.