CHICAGO (CBS) — Futures trading on bitcoin began Monday at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE).
“We feel it’s important we are on the cutting edge of technology,” said Macaire Douglas, who’s with Half Pint Shop, a children’s boutique in Lakeview who’s inventory features organic and eco-friendly items.
That’s why the boutique is set up to accept the computer-based currency. Though, according to Douglas, no one has made a purchase using bitcoin yet.
Still, Monday marked a turning point for the currency, as CBOE kicked off trading for bitcoin futures. Interest on betting whether their value would rise or fall was so high that CBOE tweeted it’s computer systems were slowing down at one point.
“Due to heavy traffic on our website, visitors to http://www.cboe.com may find that it is performing slower than usual and may at times be temporarily unavailable,” the exchange said in a statement. But it later said the trading in the futures had not been disrupted.
So is this an investment, or is it speculation? It’s a little bit of both, according to Dan Demming, KKM Financial.
Bitcoins mostly exist online, outside of the banking world. You buy them on an electronic exchange, and no third parties get a cut when they are bought or sold. In recent years, they have increased in value at enormous rates.
“$1,000 invested in bitcoin in 2013 is worth a little bit over $1.2 million today,” Demming said.
Although, Morningstar analyst Jim Sinegal warns the currency exists only on an individual’s computer, making them vulnerable to hacking with none of the guarantees that come from a bank.
“There definitely are some risks — it’s not a perfect technology,” he said. “If you have money in the bank, the bank is protecting your money. If you have money in bitcoins, it’s all your responsibility.”
Douglas, however, is betting consumers will soon be comfortable with that risk, saying, “Once things settle down, I think people will be looking to spend their bitcoin and we want to be ready for it.”
At the beginning of this year, one bitcoin was worth about $900 — today, it’s worth about $17,000.
Those betting on bitcoin futures in Monday’s launch believe the price could increase by another $1,000 shortly.