Dollars gone digital: Bitcoin is gaining acceptance as currency in the Granite State
Attorney Seth Hipple of Martin & Hipple in Concord,one of the first law firms in the state to accept Bitcoin as payment. (. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
They've joined the growing number of New Hampshire businesses that accept Bitcoin, a virtual currency that exists only on the Internet, as a form of payment.
"Many thought at the time that was a bubble," said Zach Harvey, "and it did go down to as low as $55, but then slowly built back up to $100 and now it's around $800. At one point in the past year, it went up as high as $1,200."
Bitcoin values started the day on Jan. 8 at $820, went to $790 and back to $806 before noon. Like any commodity traded in real time, a bitcoin is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
Apparently, there are a lot of people willing to take the risk. Interest in alternative digital currency has spawned several other "altcoins" in the past two years, as programmers adapted the open Bitcoin protocol to launch Litecoin, Peercoin and Namecoin, among others.
The phenomenon appeals to people for a variety of reasons. Some see Bitcoin as a hedge against inflation, because unlike government-managed currency, there is a limit on how many bitcoins will ever exist. There are now 12 million bitcoins in circulation, with a total cap of 21 million.
Supporters of the Free State Movement, which is very active in New Hampshire, are attracted by the lack of government control, at least for now, over the Bitcoin economy.
"I've been accepting it since last fall," he said. "It's not a frequent thing, but there are people here who invested early, who have tons of it lying around. We're talking millions and millions of dollars. There are some people here who really made a lot of money."
The Harvey brothers were among the first attendees at the Strange Brew meet-up, and from those meetings hatched the concept for what they call the Bitcoin Machine. They're reluctant to call it an ATM, since it does not convert bitcoins into cash.
A company called Atlanta Bitcoin in Atlanta, Ga., was the first U.S. location to put one of the machines into operation.
"We are going to do some hiring in the near future, because a lot of orders have come in during the past five or six weeks," Harvey said. "We're getting a lot of interest and are really overworked. It's at the point where we definitely need some help."
Attorney Seth Hipple, of Martin and Hipple in Concord, says his law firm decided to accept Bitcoin last week after getting requests from clients.
"There is some risk, but it's a risk we've discussed and are willing to take," Hipple said. "I'm not going to run my firm on bitcoins. If we have a $10,000 divorce case, I'm not going to take all of it in bitcoins, but I will take some. Obviously, we'll make decisions as they come."
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