Bitcoin – and by extension, the entire crypto market – is going bananas.
Prices are growing upward, which is great news for those of us who have been patiently following our steady-drip investing approach. Bitcoin is back, baby!
The question we should ask is, why?
Remember: no one really knows. But people make up answers, and those answers get repeated and retweeted … and before long, expectations become reality.
The made-up answer, this time around, is that investors are excited about the possibility of a bitcoin spot ETF.
The question we should ask is, why?
Why is a spot bitcoin ETF a big deal? And why would this drive prices upward, even when there may never be a bitcoin spot ETF? Also, what is a bitcoin spot ETF?
I’ll answer these questions using a story: The Parable of the Bitcorn.
The World’s Most Expensive Vegetable
Imagine a rare breed of hybrid corn that is incredibly delicious. Corn aficionados have declared this the world’s tastiest variety. One bite, they say, will make you swear off grocery-store corn forever. It’s served in Parisian bistros for $200 a cob. You’ve got to try it with the artisanal salt.
It’s called “bitcorn.”
Why all the hype? Bitcorn has been genetically modified so that 21 million ears will ever be produced. It’s very hard to obtain, only grown on tiny independent farms in remote locations. It’s not illegal, exactly, but they can’t sell it in U.S. supermarkets for bureaucratic FDA reasons.
The corn has taken on a kind of cult status. Hipster corn lovers publish lengthy blogs and unlistenable podcasts about their experience traveling to a remote Chinese village to hand-pick an ear of bitcorn — or maybe just a few kernels, since that’s all they can afford.
Because bitcorn stays fresh for years, some stockpile as much as they can, hoping the price of a single ear of bitcorn will eventually reach $100,000, or $1,000,000, or whatever future price they can get enough people to believe.
You get the idea. It’s expensive corn.
But then something radical happens: the FDA approves bitcorn, which means your local Whole Foods can carry it.
Hang on. Turns out, they haven’t approved bitcorn after all. It’s a rumor. But the FDA might approve bitcorn to be sold in Whole Foods. Top agriculture analysts have said there’s an 85% chance, or a 93% chance, that the FDA will approve bitcorn to be sold in Whole Foods.
The bitcorn market goes bananas. The price soars upward, and even the price of regular corn, strangely, gets a boost. (Corn is suddenly hot. And buttery.)
Remember: the FDA has not actually approved bitcorn. But people are expecting the FDA to approve bitcorn, and the more that people expect it, the more the price goes up.
The question we should ask is: why?
A Total Game-Changer
If the FDA approves bitcorn to be sold in Whole Foods, it’s a total game-changer for the corn community … and the world. Here’s why:
Accessibility: You no longer need to travel to the mountains of Tongo to get an ear of bitcorn. It will now be available at your local Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market.
Trust and Familiarity: Whole Foods is a store you know and trust. You can buy your bitcorn without fear of getting a counterfeit ear of ordinary farm corn.
Safety and Convenience: Traveling to the Himalayas to get your bitcorn is risky; you might get lost, or your corn could be stolen. Whole Foods takes care of all that.
Quality Assurance: At the bitcorn farm, you might not be sure if you’re getting the real deal. At Whole Foods, there’s an assumption of quality and legitimacy.
Integration into Daily Life: Most importantly, Whole Foods approval would bring bitcorn to the masses. Everyone could enjoy it.
This is why millions of dollars are being spent lobbying Gary Grocer, the head of the FDA, to hurry up with the bitcorn approval.
Are you hungry yet?
Bitcoin vs. Bitcorn
Back in the real world, a bitcoin spot ETF simply means that bitcoin would be turned into a financial product that anyone could buy with their E*TRADE account, like any other company stock or exchange-traded fund. It would bring bitcoin to the masses.
Just like the bitcorn story, this would make bitcoin more accessible, trustworthy, and convenient. Today, it’s still difficult to buy bitcoin – you have to create a wallet or open an online account, go through all the KYC checks, keep track of all your keys, etc. Forget it.
But bitcoin that you could just add to your IRA? Now we’re talking.
(The “spot” in “bitcoin spot ETF” means that this financial product would be directly backed by bitcoin, held in an account for you. Thus, the price of a spot ETF would reflect the current price of bitcoin “on the spot”—as opposed to bitcoin futures ETFs, which are based on future prices.)
It is the SEC, not the FDA, that needs to approve this bitcoin spot ETF. To date, they have resisted because of concerns about price manipulation. This is a reasonable concern, because bitcoin is not like ordinary corporate stocks: it is global, decentralized, and unregulated.
(On the other hand, bad behavior happens even with SEC-regulated stocks, as we are reminded every time we hear about another case of insider trading.)
Make no mistake: we want this to happen. A bitcoin spot ETF would make our dream of the Blockchain Believer’s Portfolio much closer to reality: you could just set up a monthly purchase through any online brokerage, and that really would be a game-changer for investors.
So it is a big deal. But it hasn’t happened yet. If you’re buying bitcoin right now – or any other crypto asset – you’re “buying the rumor.” And rumors can be either right or wrong.
It’s like bitcorn prices doubling overnight on the rumor that the FDA might approve them for selling in Whole Foods. Double price, but it’s still the same corn.
There’s nothing that changes about our approach.
We buy bitcoin, plus a small number of high-quality digital assets, as part of a balanced diet. (Rule of thumb: 65% stocks, 25% bonds, 10% bitcoin and crypto.)
We buy the same amount each month – whatever we can afford – regardless of price. This gets us the long-term average price, and protects us from market craziness (like now).
It’s common sense, but it’s uncommon practice.
But with a bitcoin spot ETF, our approach may become a little more common for a lot more investors.
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