Note: Ryan Wilday and I just co-wrote this crypto article, and we thought you may find it interesting.
Recently, the Winklevoss twins (who founded the Gemini crypto exchange) coined Bitcoin as ‘Gold 2.0.’ To support their perspective, they cited Bitcoin’s scarcity, its fungibility and its portability as meeting or exceeding that of the yellow metal.
Greyscale Investments, the company that has brought crypto based trusts to the US OTC market, recently ran ads urging investors to drop gold as a relic of the past in favor of cryptocurrency, which is ‘secure’, borderless, and in their direct words, ‘actually has utility’.
It seems that there are more and more comparisons between Bitcoin and gold, but is one better to hold more so than the other? Well, to be honest, each has a different ultimate purpose for which each is better suited.
With gold and crypto starting to launch on their next bull run, we thought it would be fun to explore these questions. At the end of the day, we find each asset worth owning. And, for the libertarian minded, both assets provide “insurance” from inflationary fiat and the centralized banking system. Yet, each asset has their die-hard investors who view each asset as “the” asset to own, while they simultaneously look down at the other camp.
For example, ‘gold bug’s’ such as Peter Schiff decry Bitcoin as ‘not viable as money’, ‘not a store of value’, and ‘fool’s gold’. And, Bitcoin fans simply consider gold a cumbersome hunk of metal with a value based on tradition rather than utility.
As far as we are concerned, each camp has a point, which is why we feel that one should diversify into both asset classes for the same types of protections. You see, gold and bitcoin share values which are sought after by both groups of investors: separation from the centralized financial system, scarcity, security, portability, and fungibility. However, whereas Bitcoin may better serve investors with certain of these benefits, gold will serve investors better with others.
Separation from the System
In regards to separation from the centralized finance system of the world, Bitcoin and Gold are comparable. Both assets allow the holder to remain in control of their holdings, effectively becoming the bank for themselves. In that regard, holding either asset removes counterparty risk. Moreover, both allow for exchange between parties without intermediaries. And, finally, both are immune from the inflationary efforts of central banks.
All the gold ever mined is estimated at 190,000 tonnes and there is expected to be 54,000 tonnes in the ground. The current supply of Bitcoin is approaching 18 million and will never exceed 21 million. Furthermore, untold numbers of bitcoin are lost due to misplaced keys. Therefore, it is quite clear that both assets are scarce and finite, though one could certainly argue that Bitcoin is more so.
The holders of both assets need to pay attention to security. For the gold holder, of course, security involves keeping gold away from prying hands. However, storage does become an issue the larger the holding, and involves additional costs. So, clearly, this is certainly one of the drawbacks of holding gold.
Yet, theft of cryptocurrency has been one of the biggest deterrents from adoption of crypto as a common asset class. Yet, with appropriate cyber security protections, one can keep their crypto secure. Given that it is not held in a physical location, there are no additional costs of storage. Moreover, as long as one doesn’t expose how they maintain their private keys, one is unlikely to experience a physical robbery attempt. (We created a quick document on crypto security here).
However, the Achilles heel of Bitcoin is that it requires the internet and electric grids to run properly. Should electricity become compromised for whatever the reason, I think it would be clear to understand how gold would become the more desirable of the two assets in this event.
I don’t think there is much of a question that Bitcoin wins hands down with respect to portability. Bitcoin is weightless and gold is over 19 grams per cubic centimeter. This is why so many Venezuelans reportedly ran to Bitcon to take capital out of the country. Doing so with gold is nearly impossible during such times of crisis.
Bitcoin and Gold are both fungible. However, Bitcoin is much more easily divided into smaller units down to 8 decimal places. At current price, one could theoretically exchange Bitcoin worth 1 /100 of a cent. Try doing that with gold. Since units of gold generally need to be rated for investment level purity, it is quite hard to exchange less than a 1/10th ounce of gold, or roughly $140 at today’s price.
Perhaps gold and crypto investors can find some common ground, as they each have similar benefits. The benefits that have traditionally led gold investors to hoard the yellow metal are not too different from those driving today’s Bitcoin buyers. Nonetheless, as we’ve shared, both are expected to embark on their next bull run. And, a disadvantage to owning one asset is often an advantage of owning other. Therefore, we believe both deserve a place in your portfolio for at least insurance purposes.