On June 30, 2014, the state of California rescinded its ban against Bitcoins and other alternative currencies. This in turn paved the way to the first Bitcoin ATMS in California – now located in two Locali Conscious convenience stores in Los Angeles.
Although far from taking over the U.S. dollar, Bitcoins are garnering traction. The cryptocurrency first appeared in 2009, and in 2012, over 1,000 merchants were accepting Bitcoins. As well, the price of a Bitcoin has also increased – in February, 2011, the exchange rate was 1:$1; it is now about $600 per Bitcoin, down from a high of $1,000 in January, 2014.
The ATMs in Los Angeles are managed by ExpressCoin, and created by Robocoin. They allow users to purchase and sell Bitcoins in exchange for U.S. or other forms of paper currency. The ATMs themselves include a palm scanning technology, and also require the user to enter a valid e-mail address for verification.
Will Bitcoins still be as popular in a year — or five? The fall from $1,000 to $600 per Bitcoin directly results from the shutdown of MTGOX, one of the larger Japanese Bitcoin exchanges, and the uncertainty as to whether or not the Chinese government would try to ban the currency exchanges.
On the other hand, Robocoin has created a lot of interest in the ATMs. Chief executive officer Jordan Kelly said in the L.A. Times that over 100 other potential L.A. operators have expressed interest in the ATMs. From the first ATM launch in 2013 in Vancouver, Robocoin now has six Bitcoin machines in the U.S., with others in Tel Aviv, Hong Kong – a total of 13 countries.
One of the more well-known instances of large items being sold or traded for Bitcoins is an Alberta, Canada, man offering to sell his house for Bitcoins, also followed by a woman in the same province. One of the more endearing qualities of the Bitcoin is the fact that there are no middle men involved – you are not charged a fee for the bank to hold onto the currency, and you do not have to pay a fee to get it exchanged.
Some countries have already made their stance on Bitcoin obvious. Ecuador has banned the Bitcoin, and is planning its own digital money as an alternative. Europe has many exchanges available for the digital currency, and Amsterdam was the location of the Bitcoin 2014 conference – building the digital economy – from May 15 to 17.
Whether it sticks around or not, the Bitcoin is definitely an interesting subject to think about. It may seem illegal, but in many countries it is quite legal indeed. Many larger companies are jumping on board and accepting the Bitcoin, including Dell, Newegg, WordPress, OverStock.com, Amazon, Target, even Subway and Victoria’s Secret. In London, England, there’s even a pub that accepts Bitcoins – the Pembury Tavern.
The Bitcoin is an entirely new animal in the world of currency, as it is the first start-up currency – ever. It will be interesting to see if this cyroptocurrency increases its price – or falls off the map entirely.