As the dollar price of bitcoin continues its seemingly inevitable ascent to $100,000, more and more people are jumping on the cryptocurrency train. After all, who can blame them? Many people who invested in bitcoin since its inception in October 2008 have become millionaires – and a few of the earlier adopters have become billionaires.
Meanwhile, the dollar price of many other cryptocurrencies — including ethereum, stellar, litecoin, and binance coin — are continuing to rise as the number of people interested in making a fast buck dip their toes into the marketplace. Even dogecoin is drawing a lot of interest these days, despite the fact that it originally started out as a joke; it is now among the ten biggest cryptocurrencies.
That being said, when it comes to a store of value, gold and silver are superior to any cryptocurrency because, unlike the precious metals, cryptos have an Achilles’ heel that can’t be overcome: that is, they are ethereal — therefore they can only be valued in terms of something else.
That isn’t an issue as long as the current fiat monetary system remains intact. But what happens if hyperinflation destroys the US dollar (which, in turn, would topple all of the other fiat currencies like a bunch of dominos)? If the value of, say, the fiat US dollar goes to zero — as Voltaire assured us is guaranteed to happen at some point in the future — then, by definition, you would need infinity dollars to buy a loaf of bread. Well … obviously that’s impossible.
So what does this have to do with cryptocurrencies? Actually, quite a bit.
We are told that cryptocurrencies are the ultimate store of value; a safe haven from a world that is seemingly incapable of removing itself from the treadmill of runaway debt, and the inevitable hyperinflation that will come in its wake. But are they really?
Actually, they’re not.
The reality is, when it comes to currencies, only precious metals — that is, physical gold and silver — can claim to be the ultimate insurance against hyperinflation. Here’s why:
Gold and silver are real; they are elements on the periodic table. As such, they are physical items with mass, and are therefore self-referential. That is, we can refer to them in terms of a common benchmark such as grams, ounces, or kilograms. That benchmark can then be used to reliably price other goods and services. For example, a loaf of bread is typically worth 0.1 grams of gold (give or take).
You can’t do that for cryptocurrencies; since they are ethereal, they must first be valued in terms of something in the physical plane (that includes fiat currency) before they can be used to value something else.
With all that in mind, if the fiat system completely breaks down, then the logical solution for cryptocurrencies will be to value them in terms of gold. Ironically, that will also mean that the true value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will end up being determined by those who hold the yellow metal.
Only then will we discover the true relationship between, say, bitcoin and gold.
As a gold holder, I wouldn’t trade one gram of gold for a single bitcoin — never mind the 30+ troy ounces of gold that bitcoin is currently fetching in the fiat-dollar denominated market.
Of course, there are surely other physical gold holders who feel differently.
Since market prices are determined at the margin, if the fiat monetary system ever goes belly up, then the actual value of cryptocurrencies – and bitcoin, in particular – will probably end up falling somewhere between those two extremes. Although I strongly suspect it will be much closer to the bottom of that range than the top. But only time will tell.
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