MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - For almost 10 years, you've been able to buy something called bitcoin, but for most of us, it's only caught our attention in the past year, as the value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrency jumped, before leveling off.
Many of us still may not know what it really is. So we did a little digging, and tracked down a bitcoin buyer and a certified financial planner for some answers to our crypto-questions.
It's been hammering the headlines, especially over the last year: bitcoin, and other digital currency, known as cryptocurrency.
You buy it online or through your phone, you can use it to buy products like hotels nights at Expedia and jewelry at Reeds:
Even cars at some dealerships, like one we found one in Charleston.
Then there's the guy in this story:
He bought a $200,000 Lamborghini with his coins, coins he says he bought in 2011 for under $3 each, before the value jumped to $19,000 - that's $19,000 for each coin! A bitcoin's value has now started to come back to earth; they're worth closer to $10,000 per coin today, with a future of uncertainty.
Chris St. John, Certified Financial Planner at Carolina Wealth Advisors, told us: "I've seen articles that will say where Bitcoin is going to be at a million dollars and I've seen articles where Bitcoin's going to be worth a dollar."
"My own personal perspective: I can't get my hands around whether it is an asset class or a currency at this point and time and I can justify both sides of it, but it still takes away from the other side of the equation. If I look at it as an asset class, an alternative, how do I hedge it? Well, if l'm using it to purchase things, well is it really an asset class, and so if I look at it as a currency, how does the currency move, you know, 50 percent in value over three months? And so you've got to be careful in that sense," said St. John.
Robert Lewis came to our station to show us some of the cryptocurrency he likes. A Myrtle Beach based real estate referral agent,
Lewis says he owns around 500,000 different types of cryptocurrency, some valued as low a pennies.
"I did a lot of research on these; you have to do your research on cryptocurrencies to make sure your getting the right one," Lewis said. "It's like stocks or anything else. You want to do your research and make sure it's a good product and you have some good service and a good intrinsic value as well and it can serve a purpose as well."
Ripple is another coin he owns. "They are really good, they can do all types of transactions, transfer money in one second, which is great. And then Byte Coin and I have Red Coin as well which is a tipping micro coin made by Tronium which is a coin you can mine on your smart phone as well so I tried to diversify like anything else," he said.
"The draw is it's something new it's new horizon, especially with everything going internationally," Lewis said. "We have people who travel the world, and especially people who travel from country to country, instead of exchanging of currency over for a different rate, I think you're going to see a lot of businesses, like for example Orlando, Las Vegas, New York, you do have some of the bitcoin and crypto ATMs people are using. I think you'll see more of those. Maybe in Myrtle Beach you may see that because we have a fair amount of international tourists here as well."
In the meantime, there is also the threat of online theft. "It's new to itself," Lewis said. "It's not really regulated that much. I think there should be some more regulations to assure there are no scams out there and to kind of shake out the bad coins and the good coins and it will help them propel to a new level as well."
For now? "I've had a couple ask should I be invested in this?" St. John said. "So the way that you should almost view bitcoin at this point and time is because it's so new is you almost have to go into it, whatever you're going to invest in it, expect to lose 100 percent of it, okay? Now that's not necessarily true, but you have to go into it with that state of mind because it's so new and it's so volatile as far as the price."
Lewis agrees - he's holding onto his coins and says if you're thinking about jumping in and expecting an overnight payday, don't.
"I would say be patient. Be patient and expect the unexpected. Just train yourself to be calm, cool, and, you know, things are going to happen...Like I said, just be patient and don't invest any more than you can lose with this and have fun with it," said Lewis.
There are several topics of cryptocurrency, but keeping your coins secure is another big one. Most investors have portable digital wallets, kinda like a small thumb drive. Safer, experts say, than leaving the coins' digital footprint stored on your computer, which some say, could get hacked.
For more information on what cryptocurrency is and how it works, check out these resources: