Over the past few years, gold has proved to be a safe haven commodity for investors. However, the recent pandemic seems to be a positive turning point for its fierce competitor bitcoin. the reputation of the digital asset as a safe commodity waxed stronger during the economic meltdown and the value and adoption have been on the rise since then. The result has been a greater interest in digital assets and more people choosing to buy bitcoin. The rise in the price and market capitalization is a strong indicator.
But does that mean that bitcoin is a better investment than gold? Let’s compare the two tradable assets to help you decide what could make the better investment between the two.
Comparing the two safe-haven assets
Safe-haven investments involve assets that maintain their value, increase in value, or outperform other assets during financial crises. For so long, gold has been perceived as the ultimate safe-haven asset because it has always outperformed other assets when financial markets crumble.
Although gold didn’t seem to meet investors’ expectations during the COVID-19 crisis, it still managed to outperform equities and some commodities.
While bitcoin’s performance at the beginning of the crisis was quite low, dropping from $9,700 to $4,891 in March 2020. It rebounded quite strongly about 6 months later in the last quarter of 2020, trading above $11,000 in October.
Bitcoin yielded a cumulative return of +44.64% between March 24, 2020, to May 6, 2020, surpassing every form of investment during the pandemic. Interestingly, the digital asset continued on a bull run to hit $20k in December and is currently trading at about $56,000.
If you were fortunate to buy bitcoin before the crisis, your portfolio would be up by approximately 447.3% today, making it the most lucrative form of investment to date.
Gold is stored in a vault and managed by a custodian. As a physical asset you can also store it in the bank or even in your home. However, storing gold in a vault offers flexibility and it’s much safer than storing the precious metal in your home. Bitcoin on the other hand requires a wallet to store the asset. You have to possess a bitcoin wallet before you buy BTC. You cannot keep bitcoin in a wallet the way you put your cash in a wallet because it is a digital asset. A bitcoin wallet is a software program that has a unique key. Once you purchase BTC and store it in the wallet, the private key guarantees your ownership of the asset and must be kept safe. Unlike in a vault where gold is managed by a custodian, you are fully in charge of your asset with your private keys in the case of bitcoin, and you can also make transactions at any point in time, peer-to-peer.
Which asset has shown value increase over time?
Gold has survived the test of time and is no doubt a good investment option. Its value has grown consistently over centuries and it is a trusted store of value. Bitcoin shares some similarities with gold and has even been dubbed gold 2.0 by many. Although it will always have unstable prices because of its volatile nature, it has, however, proved to be a good investment option with a consistent increase in value even during economic downturns when even gold has not quite performed to expectations.
Which has served longer?
Unlike bitcoin, gold has been around for centuries. It is an attractive, durable and multi-purpose resource that has stood the test of time. Aside from its good return on investment, it has other unique features. It is a scarce resource and thus has a limited supply. Bitcoin was developed in 2008. It is still a relatively new technology, nonetheless, it has shown great potential since being created. Long term its prospects look bright as even countries like China are now looking to introduce their own versions of digital currencies.
Which can be used for other investments?
You can decide to use bitcoin to buy other cryptocurrencies. If you have bitcoin and you don’t wish to hold the asset anymore, you can buy other crypto assets directly with bitcoin. However, gold is not as flexible in that same regard and it’s an asset that is not easily liquid especially for the retail investor or trader.
Which is more safe and transparent?
The method of trading gold is old and trading the asset is quite cumbersome. Before buying gold, you need to weigh it, track, and test to confirm if the gold is pure. It is easy to deceive those who do not have machines that can detect whether the metal is really gold or counterfeit metal.
Bitcoin on the other hand is tough to alter or corrupt. It is cryptographically secure, easily trackable and cannot be double spent. Despite being powered by a decentralised and trustless network, bitcoin traders and investors ought to exercise extra caution since the world of cyber can be infested with cybercriminals and hackers.
Which of the two is more scarce?
Both bitcoin and gold are rare assets. However, unlike gold, bitcoin has a limited issuance with only 21 million to be mined into existence. All this was predetermined in the initial bitcoin code and cannot be altered. There is no accurate way to evaluate the amount of gold that can be mined. Even if we exhaust the gold on earth, gold can be mined in asteroids. Some companies are already looking into the mining of gold in space and on other planets. In future this could significantly affect the supply and demand mechanics in the gold markets.
Which of the two is more volatile?
For any investment option, you need to consider the history of the price. Bitcoin is a very volatile asset, its price was at its peak in 2017 before the fall to $3000 in the following year. Recently, the bullish run took bitcoin past the $41000 mark in January 2021 and it continues to be on the rise as the bull market rally continues almost unabated.
Gold is also volatile because the price of gold can be influenced by other market forces. Gold however, is the more stable of the two and the average and conservative investor would likely choose gold as the safer trade. But even with its high volatility, bitcoin has always shown a consistent and more rewarding price increase over time.
Which of the two can be converted to cash easily?
Gold and bitcoin are both liquid investment options and they can be converted to money anytime. Gold however is not as easily convertible to local currency compared to say bitcoin which can be exchanged peer-to-peer. Converting gold to local currency is time consuming and the process is riddled with regulatory constraints. To convert your digital currency to local currency, all you need is to use exchanges like Remitano where you can buy or sell bitcoin.
Any asset that is considered a good investment must also be a good store of value or be a hedge against the volatility of other assets. Bitcoin is stored digitally and thus eliminates the risks associated with physical stores of wealth such as gold. All you need to store your bitcoin is a cryptocurrency wallet. Bitcoin is portable, divisible and easily exchangeable and transferrable. It’s the ideal medium of exchange for cross-border transactions and it gives users complete privacy and at the same time full transparency since all transaction records are publicly available on an immutable blockchain or distributed ledger.
All things considered, it appears that bitcoin is inherently superior to gold in many ways even though like any other innovation, it comes with its own specific shortcomings which cannot be ignored if you want to consider investing in the digital asset. At the current rate, it is not beyond feasible that if the cryptocurrency market continues to increase in market cap, it may some day in the future rival gold in demand and adoption.