Saturday, November 4, 2017

Gold vs Digital Gold (Bitcoin)

As someone who has physically owned precious metals for years, I think I am in a pretty good position to talk about precious metals as an investment compared to 95% of other investors who have never touched it before, or only own it through chance / luck through some ETF or unit trust holding.

Also, as someone that owns his own private key on the Bitcoin blockchain and has more than 1 BTC, and have actually made multiple transactions using the blockchain, I also think I am in a pretty good position to talk about Bitcoins compared to 99.8% of people who have never owned a Bitcoin, and probably more than the entire new wave of "investors" who own bitcoins but have actually never used it or made a transaction before.

When I first came across and learnt about bitcoins in 2013, I dismissed it as magical worthless internet money. Even back then, it was frequently compared to gold. The problem about bitcoins back then was that there was no infrastructure and it was all so underground and technical. It was not an easy or friendly thing to get into either.

Now in 2017, after seeing how much the underlying technology has developed and expanded (Ethereum), bitcoin is still going on strong as the world's first truly international, censor-proof and opt-in banking and payment network system.

Bitcoin has legal status in a few countries. Laws and regulations have been passed to consider it a currency, or at least not to regulate or ban it. There are decent levels of merchant adoption, which is growing, along with payment acceptance services for it.

Gold though, largely has its historical record and permanence that grounds its value as a store of wealth. All games in the world use "Gold" at the premier in game currency and even little children can tell you that gold is money. There is something intuitive knowing that you need to grab a pickaxe and head to the mines to get out a mine piece of gold that makes it worth so much.

Bitcoin mining is frequently compared to gold mining and incorrectly (personal opinion) equate that the time and energy exchanged in mining is the base cost of bitcoin. I find this argument extremely weak. Why? If the total bitcoin network was at 1 old desktop sitting in a basement instead of the hundred of thousand of specialized bitcoin mining computers in huge farms across the globe, it STILL produces the same amount of bitcoin. Adding MORE hash rate to mine bitcoin is extremely different from opening several new mines and hiring more miners - you actually get a total output increase in the gold scenario, while the bitcoin scenario yields no increase in output.

Anyway, I think that's a pretty important difference regarding actual gold mining and bitcoin "mining".

The marginal cost of new gold supply is literally the mine with the lowest mining cost. The marginal cost of new bitcoin is.... erm time? Sure, the actual formula has difficulty adjustments every 2016 blocks and stuff like that, but really, more hashing does not equal more bitcoins, which is why I only like to loosely compare bitcoin mining to real mining.

The more important relationship is actually regarding supply. Both gold and bitcoin has a fixed supply. The theoretical maximum supply is the most important thing regarding both gold and bitcoin.

It is important to know that what you own can NEVER EVER be faked, or simply "created" into existence. This makes what you have as a unique piece in this entire set of objects. You can't just print or create more into existence because it'd make the existing things in existence worth less.

And this is exactly the reason why fiat money dies every single iteration of the thousands of iterations that it has tried. As long as the money supply is not fixed, you WILL get bad actors and they WILL f*** things up. All currency dies from hyper inflation. There are no natural exceptions. This has happened in every country, every time. If it hasn't happened to your currency (yet), ask yourself this: what was the currency BEFORE this one? What happened to it? Unless you got "Euro-ed" (probably one of the notable few exceptions in the world), the answer is that your previous currency died due to hyper-inflation.

Fiat currencies dying through hyper-inflation is like people dying from old age. That's just the way it is.

Gold and bitcoin removes the power of anyone to do so by creating (1) a maximum supply and (2) a method to prove the authenticity of the thing in question. In gold, it is through testing. In bitcoin, it is through cryptographic proofs.

While many people, myself included, love the feeling of touching, feeling and holding your precious metals, it is arguably extremely hard to spend, transport and even sell if it eventually comes to it.

Bitcoin on the other hand has no need for transport, can be easily spent without any government or bank being able to stop the payment, and sells extremely easily. Perhaps it's main drawback is that currently fees to transact in bitcoins aren't as cheap as it used to be, and takes a while to complete a transaction (minimum 10 minutes) - 2 things that bitcoin is aiming to fix with its future upgrades.

It's been hard for me to admit it, but I've finally come to terms with it. I do feel that cryptos are likely the way forward, especially in the modern world where having a lump of gold in your safe means close to jackshit, but having access to bitcoins means you have instantly spendable wealth.

To precious metals investors, I'm definitely not saying that precious metals are useless and worthless. But I think that they really need to be evaluated in today's context, especially for their utility.

One very, very interesting crypto-gold project that I am looking at that actually marries the ideas of BOTH crypto and precious metals is DigixDAO. I don't want to say too much because it'll look like its a freaking advertorial for them and obviously I'm not being paid to say any of this. Plus, I care squat if you guys buy it. Buying crypto suggested from an anonymous stranger is no different than going into vans for candy. Anyway, it's a crypto that I own and I support, and it is going to do something pretty interesting with crypto and gold. Their project is in the final stages and I hope that next year I can happily sing praises about it and talk about it more when they actually have a product to talk about. For now, it's just a nifty idea that the curious can go exploring themselves.

I officially own more cryptos than I have precious metals. I have not sold off any precious metals yet, but I can't say that I have not been tempted to, to buy more cryptos.


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  2. Gold is an asset which will always be in demand. It is seen as a safe investment.
    There is the new craze for buying Bitcoin which seems to be in favor at present, but I feel Gold will always recover.


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