Back in 2009, the most exciting thing in the world was the possibility of a new gold rush. Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency – a digital currency not controlled by any government or central bank. The idea was simple: a peer-to-peer network that allowed anyone with an internet connection to exchange money without a third party standing between them.
The price of bitcoin went up to $1, and then it went down again. A year later, it was at $2. Another year passed – and it was back at $2. Then another year passed, and so on. Hundreds of other cryptocurrencies went up and down in this way. There are now hundreds more, but bitcoin is still the biggest by far.
Nowadays people talk about “cryptocurrencies” as if they were all interchangeable – but they aren’t. Cryptocurrencies are all different in some way, which means they will all succeed or fail in their own way, and they will all have different characteristics that make them good or bad investments.
I started out thinking I would write about how much I like cryptocurrencies, but I soon realized I have little interest in talking about that – which is why this blog post has ended up being about how to invest in cryptocurrencies instead.
Cryptocurrencies have been around for a long time. Although the first one was invented in 2009, it took a long time for them to become widespread.
But when they did, the price rocketed. The last couple of years have been truly spectacular, with Bitcoin at one point reaching $20,000 per coin and Ethereum at $1,000 per token. So it is tempting to get into cryptocurrencies now before prices go up even more. But there are many risks involved in trading in cryptocurrencies. There’s no central authority that regulates the market. As such, if you are not familiar with the complex technical jargon that dominates the cryptocurrency world, you could end up losing money.
There are so many different types of cryptocurrencies that we’ve decided to keep our list of cryptocurrencies at a bare minimum. So this list doesn’t include things like Ripple or Litecoin or Monero (we don’t think they’re worthwhile investments). It also doesn’t include things like Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold — these are forks of existing cryptocurrencies and we don’t think they will become widely used as replacements for the original coins.
Cryptocurrencies are not really a thing yet, so there’s no way of knowing what the buzz is all about. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved.
The main thing to understand is that cryptocurrency has nothing to do with money. Cryptocurrency is a cryptographic technology, like email encryption or digital signatures; it’s the underlying tool, not the thing itself.
Cryptocurrency is a new way of moving information. The technology was invented in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, and he called it Bitcoin because it was “based on a peer-to-peer network.” It is digital money, but more than that: it’s a network that moves money around in seconds instead of days, for free.
You can think of Bitcoin as a kind of black box: some people think it does one thing really well and some people think it does something else better; what you don’t know is which part is better. But there isn’t any one particular thing it does well: it’s like email or e-commerce or any other new form of communication, which means anyone can start up an exchange between different currencies at some point in the future.
Then there are cryptocurrencies. Many people think of them as just a new version of the stock market, like Facebook or Twitter. But that is not quite right. They’re something different: a way to hold money without holding it in a bank.
Crypto investments are a way of hedging your bets on the long-term future of currency. This might be more valuable than you think. The commodities market has seen its share of bubbles, and many investors have been burned by it. The popular picture of commodities is that they’re just raw materials: ores, oil, corn, whatever. They behave like stocks: they go up when demand goes up, and sink when supply goes up faster than demand. It’s true that making them is also growing faster than demand — but there are other parts of the economy that are growing faster still. And some people predict that the future will belong to those other parts, not to commodities.
And then there’s the case for hedge funds in general. Hedge funds were originally designed to be long-term investments, and they still are designed that way in most cases: long-term investments with a shorter time horizon than normal investing; investments where returns are less certain; investments for people who don’t think about market movements every day
The high fees of cryptocurrencies have led to their being called “high-fee money”. But that’s like calling money “low-effort money”, or saying that most jobs are “low-effort work”. It’s not a real description of what it is, and it doesn’t make sense.
Cryptocurrencies aren’t money; they are a way of moving wealth. Money is valuable because it can move wealth. And there are lots of ways of moving wealth. Cryptocurrencies are just one example. There are other ways, such as stock markets and bonds and fixed-interest loans and so on. There was no reason for cryptocurrencies to be any better than the others when they were invented in 2009.
But they were different, and they turned out to be better. The difference is that they don’t waste time; pay very little in the way of fees; and offer security against counterfeiting.
Cryptocurrencies are like digital gold. They’re not the same thing as regular money, but they have value. What is that value? At the moment, it’s a matter of speculation.
There are several ways to invest in cryptocurrencies. First, you could buy Bitcoins directly. Then you can convert them into other cryptocurrencies and use them as money. That’s called “storing” your Bitcoin. The second way is to do what most people do: hold them in a virtual wallet in the form of an electronic record on your computer or phone, or transfer them to an online wallet for use with another cryptocurrency system. That’s called “using” your Bitcoin . The third way is to “mine” them, which means putting together a transaction that will be valid on a given cryptocurrency system and then getting some small fee charged by the system when it accepts your transaction as valid.
Bitcoin was invented in 2009 by an anonymous person using the name Satoshi Nakamoto . It is really only a currency; there’s no central bank and no single controlling authority. Although it has been updated regularly over time, it is still essentially unchanged from its original form. If you want to know more about why this might be significant, see below under “The Problem With Bitcoin.”