What is Bitcoin

Bitcoin has gone on bull runs before but nothing like this: Prices this week shot through the $3,500 mark as the mainstream media hailed digital currency as a new asset class. Then it got another boost as the blue chip brokerage house, Fidelity, allowed its customers to create bitcoin accounts.

Now, some people are calling for it go even higher. As Quartz reports, a Standpoint Research analyst has called a target of $5000 for bitcoin by 2018. This raises the question of whether ordinary investors should put a smidgen of their savings, or even their retirement accounts, into buying bitcoin. (Keep in mind you don’t have to buy a whole bitcoin. Since it’s digital, you can buy a hundred millionth of one—this tiny unit is called a Satoshi after bitcoin’s creator.)

There are strong arguments to buy—and also strong ones to stay the heck away. Here are three of each.

3 Reasons to Buy Bitcoin

Major investors and the financial industry is taking it seriously
Since its creation in 2008, Bitcoin’s biggest boosters have been computer geeks and libertarians. But recently, they’ve been joined by a growing number of mainstream investors and entrepreneurs who see bitcoin—and other digital currencies—as a legitimate asset class such as stocks, bonds, or commodities.

In 2017 alone, famous names like Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital have bet on hedge funds that are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into digital currency funds.

Meanwhile, the financial infrastructure to support bitcoin and other digital currency is maturing rapidly: Coinbase’s GDAX exchange has supported margin trading since March, while the Commodity Future Trading Commission just gave the green light for firms to sell digital currency options and other derivatives.


There is only a limited amount of bitcoin

One reason to buy bitcoins are a valuable asset is that only 21 million of them will ever come into the world—and most of them are already here. As those familiar with bitcoin know, the number of coins created by the mining process drops by half every few years. Right now, around 80% of all bitcoins are already mined and no new ones will appear after the year 2040. This scarcity could continue to drive up demand, especially if (as has been rumored), central banks decide to start buying them as foreign currency reserves.


Some see bitcoin as the new gold

So-called gold bugs like to own the precious metal because it is an asset whose value is not controlled by governments. Even if a country is ravaged by war or its profligate central bank prints too much money, the value of gold (unlike the national currency) will remain. Bitcoin has many of the same qualities. It exists on a decentralized computer network that transcends national borders, and there is no Federal Reserve-like authority that can devalue it.
This isn’t a definitive reason to buy bitcoin any more than it is to buy gold. But an analyst cited by Quartz predicts the gold bugs will become bitcoin bugs instead, which means a lot of money flowing into the digital currency.