It’s highly volatile, can be extremely risky, and is something most have heard of but don’t know much about.
And after a horror 12 months which saw Bitcoin plunge by more than 60 percent most investors who were bold enough to invest are now wondering if they will ever reap any reward from their investments.
While nothing in economics is certain, those who trade and invest are fairly confident it will happen but not straight away.
According to Fred Schebesta, Co-Founder of Finder-backed cryptocurrency financial services company HiveEx.com, crypto is basically digital gold and like the real thing, is more of a long-term investment.
Mr Schebesta admits the high risk and volatility is a large reason why some people shy away from buying crypto, but said it’s not the biggest reason.
“A survey of 1997 respondents commissioned by HiveEx conducted in August found that 65 per cent of Australians who don’t have crypto don’t understand or think it’s too difficult to use,” he said.
“One in five said they think it’s a scam.”
A recent HiveEx.com survey found the number of Australians with cryptocurrency had almost tripled, with 13.5 percent investing in crypto. This is compared to a study by finder.com.au in January 2018, which found that only 5 percent of Australians had it.
SO WHAT’S HAPPENED TO BITCOIN?
There’s no doubt it’s been a rollercoaster time for crypto investors but, as Mr Schebesta points out, big falls are part and parcel of high-risk investing.
“Bitcoin has fallen from an all-time high of just over US$20,000 on December 17, 2017, and fell down to US$6885 in February,” he said.
“It’s been hovering between US$6500 and US$9500 for most of the year.
“Many people are looking at the overall numbers of US$20,000 and US$6800 but they’re missing the bigger picture. This is a drop of 66 percent but bitcoin has seen much bigger movements in the past.
“(But) on July 1, 2011, bitcoin reached US$118 and then fell to US$4 on November 1, 2011 – that’s a 78 per cent fall.
“On November 30, 2013 bitcoin was worth US$1156 and then a year and a half later it dropped to as low as $215 – that’s an 81 per cent fall.”
SO HOW DOES BITCOIN WORK?
Bitcoin is the very first cryptocurrency and was built to be a decentralised digital cash system.
“In other words, a payments system outside of government or centralised control,” Mr Schebesta said.
“All cryptocurrencies run on a technology called the blockchain, which is used to make secure and anonymous transactions.”
He said people interest in cryptocurrencies should consider a hard wallet to securely store their coins or tokens.
“This is essentially a software program that allows you to store, send and receive digital currencies,” he said.
“Because cryptocurrencies don’t exist in any physical form, the wallet doesn’t actually hold the coins – all transactions are recorded and stored on the blockchain.”
WHAT IS A BLOCKHAIN?
A blockchain is a ledger platform that facilitates the trade of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
In short, it’s a decentralised, shared ledger that – with the help of complicated cryptography – records transactions in a verifiable, secure and permanent way.
Before Blockchain’s birth in 2008, it was impossible to place value on virtual currencies like Bitcoin as there was no way of distinguishing a legitimate digital coin from a copy.
WILL IT GROW?
ABC Bullion chief economist Jordan Eliseo told 9news.com.au the main thing to remember was that people should only invest what they are prepared to lose.
“Bitcoin can be a terrific speculative investment, but despite being very cleverly marketed as digital gold, Bitcoin shares almost none of gold’s unique properties,” he said.
“It is also worth mentioning that gold has lasted as a store of wealth for thousands of years, whereas Bitcoin has not even survived one decade as yet, and is yet to go through an entire credit cycle.”
Mr Eliseo said crypto currency had enormous potential but suggested investor diversify their portfolio.
“I can completely sympathise and understand why people want to speculative in Bitcoin and the crypto currency space more generally,” he said.
“Blockchain technology is exciting and has great potential, and the market for crypto currencies, including those backed by real gold, could well grow in the coming years.”
IS IT SAFE?
Like any investments, crypto isn’t a sure thing.
“No investment is entirely risk free, and you shouldn’t treat cryptocurrencies any different,” Mr Schebesta said.
“For those interested in purchasing, it’s important to do your own research, be aware of any potential risks, and take the necessary precautions to mitigate security risks.
He also said timing was everything when it came to investing in Bitcoin.
“If you purchased at the height of the market this month on September 5, when bitcoin (BTC) was priced at US$7375, and sold a day later on September 6, when BTC dropped to US$6465, you would have lost approximately US$910 per BTC on your investment,” he said.
“However, if you had purchased at the bottom of this month on September 9 when BTC cost US$6,219, by the next high on September 22 when BTC was valued at $6800 you would have made a cool US$581 return per BTC on your investment.”
The co-founder of comparison site finder.com.au said this demonstrates how volatile the market is when you’re working with a short-term timeline.
“Cryptocurrencies could be up one day and down the next, which means it could be better to consider cryptocurrencies as a long term investment,” he said.
Investors shouldn’t expect a quick return or rise on their return with further falls predicted.
Mr Schebesta expects Bitcoin to fall to US$5200 by the end of this year before rising to US$8100 by the end of 2019.
While some experts predict it will rise soon, Mr Schebesta is taking a more conservative approach and predicts it won’t rise by huge levels for at least the next 18 months.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018