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Gold remains champion alternative

“I hate you, I hate you, I hate you,” says the angry teen to the parent.

Most people would agree that the teenager is not thinking particularly clearly as these words are uttered.

“I hate the U.S. dollar, I hate the U.S. dollar, I hate the U.S. dollar” seems to be the cry of a subset of investors who cast about for alternatives to it.

The thinking of some might be placed on a par with the angry teenager.

They point to the fact that the value of the U..S. dollar has plunged 98 or 99 percent since 1913 in gold terms. It is 98.4 percent down today to be precise.

That gold is a yardstick that can measure the dollar’s value over time is not in dispute.

But the search for alternatives to the dollar went into truly crazy land when bitcoin arrived on the scene in 2009.

Certainly the world looked bleak from a financial perspective in those days.

Bitcoin, a computer-generated currency with no physical form, arrived with a value of less than eight hundredths of a cent. It was touted as an alternative currency even though no government or even a bank stood behind it.

Buyer enthusiasm bid up the price. It does not take much to make something that is worth almost nothing rise.

The uptrend lasted until the end of 2013 when a bitcoin was worth over $1,000, depending on which of the various exchanges you look at.

www.CoinDesk reports a peak of $979.45 in November 2013. At the same time it says a bitcoin exchange that was based in Japan had the price at $1,138 simultaneously. That exchange has since gone bankrupt.

And therein lies the problem.

If I had some bitcoins and was using them as a currency to make purchases, it would certainly concern me whether it was worth $1,138 or $979.45 at the same point in time.

It would concern me that I could lose them on unsound exchanges. How could I tell sound from unsound?

If I had purchased these bitcoins in the early days of issue and was rolling in profits as a result of their increase in value, perhaps I would be more careless.

But I know if I want to spend a hard earned dollar today, it would concern me if its value was 14 percent less in one place versus another at the same time.

But perhaps that seems like nitpicking.

Since  its peak value, bitcoin has fallen by 79 percent.

This puts bitcoin squarely in the realm of speculation rather than stable currency.

It took the U.S. dollar over 100 years to decline by 98.4 percent in terms of gold.

Bitcoin has covered almost as much negative ground in a little more than a year.

Everything happens faster on the Internet, but some things, like currency values shouldn’t change so swiftly unless there is a huge problem in the country of issue.

CoinDesk says there are 13,730,200 bitcoins extant and they have a value of $2.883 billion.

With world economic activity in 2014 at roughly 80 trillion dollars, bitcoin looks more like an unstable curiosity than a currency.

For an alternative to the dollar, gold still seems to be the soundest answer even as it too fluctuates in price day by day.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

 

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