Gold vs. Bitcoin

Whether you’ve been a part of this investing game for days, weeks, or decades, you’ve most likely heard about the value that gold can contribute to your portfolio.

For many investors, gold is the security blanket.

It’s a stable way to diversify, but also strengthen, a portfolio. Gold is said to be immune to inflation, and can potentially help offset some other financial losses. If, in the most extreme scenario, paper currency were to become obsolete, gold would act as universal legal tender.

So then why, earlier this week, did sellers dump over 33 tons of the yellow commodity in less than two minutes?

This bear raid sent gold prices to 5-year-lows, erasing a total of almost $3 billion in gold ETFs last week.

gold bitcoin chart

Bullion is now teetering around $1,100 per ounce–a critical level, and the lowest in five years. Analysts expect that one more breach could spur even further sell off.

There’s a few theories circulating regarding the causes of this severe drop. Some of these address the short-term causes, others maintain a longer term trend against gold.

Let’s talk about both:

First, like we’ve already mentioned, gold is generally scooped up in large numbers when the population anticipates financial instability or high rates of inflation. It’s a crisis metal.

It might be bittersweet to heavy gold investors, but the U.S. dollar has exhibited some real strength recently. Add to that the expected increase in U.S. interest rates (for the first time in over a decade), and it’s not completely unlikely that we’ll see another bearish sell-off.

Frankly, the public just doesn’t see a need for gold right now, and apparently neither does China or India.

The two largest anticipated sources of gold demand both fell short of expectations this week.

In a gesture that strays from their usual M.O., the People’s Bank of China announced a 57% increase in gold reserves from 2009. This is considerably less bullion than everyone expected.

In India, gold prices have dipped to the lowest in two years.

Even if you set aside the events of this week, many analysts still maintain that the long-term trends have been against gold.

Gold is a hedge commodity. It possesses the value we attach to it. Currently, because of our relatively stable economy, there’s just not a lot of that perceived value circulating around.

The case for gold has been slowly waning over the past few years, and it doesn’t help that there’s a younger, newer competitor on the play ground.

Enter: Bitcoin.

Bill Gates is calling Bitcoin a “technological tour de force.”

It’s a decentralized, digital currency.

There’s no bank, no middleman, no government involvement.

Advocates compare bitcoin to e-mail.

E-mail allows us to send letters for free. Bitcoin allows us to send money for free.

Aside from the obvious differences: storability, environmental impacts, energy consumption, and size, there is one overarching reason why bitcoins are increasingly being considered as the new hedging status quo:

The internet of everything.

Many people see Bitcoin as a giant ponzi scheme–an internet novelty, a niche phenomenon not to be given serious consideration as legal currency.

But, is the concept truly that far-fetched when everything around us is connected to the internet?

I don’t think so.

I believe that all theories warrant some discussion and consideration. Especially if those theories already have over 100,000 participants and are being used every day to transfer thousands of dollars.

In 2014, the price of bitcoin actually surpassed that of gold.

Bitcoin software is still widely unknown, and therefore untrusted. It’s still in the beta phase, and the value of the coins is still relatively volatile.

That volatility is expected to smooth over as the technology matures.

Bitcoins circulate throughout a relatively small network. They’ve even been banned in some countries, like Russia and Thailand.

However, in some nations with historically volatile inflation rates, bitcoin has been embraced as a mitigation strategy when capital controls fail.

In Argentina, the second-largest economy in South America, the number of bitcoin merchants has doubled within the past year alone.

In the face of double-digit inflation and an overall lack of trust for the formal banking sector, bitcoins have been proven to flourish in Argentina.

Still, no one is telling you to liquidate your gold holdings.

Gold has existed first as currency, then as a hedging mechanism, for thousands of years. The recent slide is something we’ve seen before, though not to this extent.

Many people are maintaining that gold has finally lost its luster.

I wouldn’t entirely support that quite yet. Economist and gold advocate Peter Schiff sums it all up:

“You can turn gold into a spoon, but the same cannot be said for Bitcoin.”

There’s something to be said for being able to hold your investment in your hands.

There’s also something to be said for history. Gold is the age-old, trusted security blanket. We as a society have attached a certain value, a certain faith, to gold.

Gold has time and tangibility on its side, but we have to wonder how long that can hold off the pressure of bitcoin.

Again, don’t sound the alarms quite yet. I wouldn’t say that the golden age is over– I would just suggest keeping an ear to the ground in regards to cryptocurrency. It could very well become the new standard of the digital age.