It’s that time of the year when our streets are lit and our music turns happy with everyone beginning preparations for the biggest holiday of the year. Billions are expected to be spent this Friday as everyone receives their last paycheck before Christmas day with some, as in the previous four years, spending bitcoins instead.
The best place to do so is through Bitcoin Black Friday which will provide numerous discounts and offers. It opens early morning EST with Ledger in particular “hosting a very generous deal on their hardware wallets” according to Jon Holmquist, the Bitcoin Black Friday founder.
Holmquist continues a tradition first established in 2012 when few used Bitcoin with its price then standing at around $1. 60 merchants still joined, says Holmquist, with the event ballooning next year to 600 merchants, the highest ever, just as Bitcoin reached its all-time high.
The theme this year is a celebration of Bitcoin’s history, focusing on issues affecting bitcoiners and bitcoin merchants. Around 150 merchants are expected to participate offering a wide range of products from video games, diamond jewelry, cryptoart to new computers.
“We launched Bitcoin Black Friday to provide a foil to Bitcoin’s negative brand image due to the Silk Road, we were successful,” said Holmquist. “We will be focusing on a smaller event this year revolving around core Bitcoin merchants who have been processing and accepting Bitcoin for years, merchants well known in the community like Bees Brothers or BitBrew.”
Bees Brothers is a small family business run by three teenagers in Utah. Initially it was a fun project to learn more about bees, but now they offer Honey Roasted Almonds, Honey Soap, Beeswax Lip Balm and other products, all for bitcoins. In previous years, they gave a 20% discount through Bitcoin Black Friday. We may expect the same deal this year or better.
BitBrew began in 2011 when they offered “some organic Guatemalan coffee, ground, for 2.95 BTC per pound,” now worth more than $2,000 at current prices. We are not certain, but we expect their coffees to be far cheaper on Friday.
An interesting relative newcomer is Cryptoart, which offer paintings, but with a twist. They hold bitcoin through a QR code with the private key under a security sticker on the back. “You can change the private key and QR code without damaging it. It's really just a vessel to hold them,” said Troy Fearnow, Cryptoart founder.
They come in different sizes, from small A4 art pieces to actual paintings you can hang on the wall. “[W]e've sold well over 1000 pieces since launch,” said Fearnow, with Bitcoin Black Friday being the biggest day of the year. Fearnow added:
“We want to use imagery to attract people into the Bitcoin space. Last year, we made over 100 new Bitcoin owners by giving away Bitcoin in art at SXSW. Currently, I'm working on a highly trafficked retail location in Austin.
I would like to encourage people to consider giving Cryptoart as a gift. Physical bitcoin represents a really easy way to scale the technological barrier that can discourage potential users. Not only does it give these new users a vested interest, but it helps them understand that they can control their own money.”
Cryptoart will offer “flash deals”, free mystery prizes and they will even give away free Cryptoart throughout the day this Friday.
The Heyday of Bitcoin Commerce
Bitcoin’s heyday for merchant acceptance was in 2014 when, to the surprise of many, giant household brands announced one after the other they are now willing to accept bitcoins. As I reported back then, Overstock was the first:
“I believe that by being the first major online retailer to accept bitcoin, we will tap into a significant group of loyal consumers, and as a result our share of the overall market will grow.” Patrick M. Byrne, the CEO of Overstock, said in January 2014, adding that “We want a money that some government mandarin can’t just whisk into existence with a pen stroke.”
NewEgg then joined, with their products quickly running out of stock as the bitcoin community began to taste mainstream adoption. Jimmy Whales came to speak to bitcoin’s main public forum, with Wikipedia accepting bitcoin donations. Dell joined too, with someone purchasing $50,000 worth of their products in bitcoin. Then Microsoft announced they too will accept bitcoin, culminating with Paypal shocking everyone and silencing all critics by incorporating bitcoin into its payment processor, Braintree.
Few expected such sudden explosion in bitcoin acceptance, but is bitcoin ready, a friend asked me back then. I contacted most of the companies mentioned above for some updates or statistics, neither replied in time for publishing.
I also reported in 2014 that more than 4,400 BitPay merchants keep all their bitcoins:
“BitPay, the largest and oldest bitcoin payment processor with a daily volume of $1 million bitcoin transactions supporting more than 44,000 merchants, stated in an email exchange to CCN that more than 4,400 of their merchants keep all of their settlement in bitcoin, almost 18,000 keep some of their settlement in bitcoin while the remaining 22,000 convert it all to fiat.”
The next year, merchants more than doubled to 100,000, with volume increasing 110% as BitPay reported on January 20th 2016:
“BitPay has seen transaction volume increase by 50% just in the last two months and by 110% in 12 months. We saw record months for bitcoin transactions in November and December, with more than 100,000 BitPay invoices processed each month. At these rates, every 25 seconds a shopper somewhere in the world was spending bitcoin at a BitPay merchant.”
We asked for an update on those statistics for 2016, but BitPay has not yet responded. We also asked Coinbase, but have received no reply.
Bitcoin’s Growth in Commerce
Alpaca socks used to be a meme in Bitcoin’s community because for some time it was the best or sole example for bitcoin critics who were keen to point out that bitcoin was useless as you could not buy anything with it. Now, of course, there are a wide range of products on offer for bitcoins with many mainstream services that are willing to accept it, much of it to be displayed on Bitcoin Black Friday:
“The wide range of merchants participating every year ensures that visitors can buy all sorts of things with Bitcoin including video games, organic coffee, diamond jewelry, web hosting, tax preparation services, clothing, gift cards to major retailers, or even a new computer.”
Holmquist, however, publicly stated, that he had done “multiple interviews stating that consumer Bitcoin spending is trending down and merchant adoption is pretty much stagnant.” There has been no notable merchant to announce bitcoin acceptance this year, nor can any easily be recalled from 2015.
The scalability debate has certainly contributed for transaction capacity has reached a peak early this year and very much stagnated at a capped 250,000 transactions per day for all of 2016. Price, however, has more than quadrupled since summer 2015. As such, you’d expect bitcoin spending to considerably increase as individuals who have bitcoin and may need the funds for whatever reason can and do spend it directly, rather than having to convert it to cash with its many delays and fees.
Back to the Future
As thanksgiving arrives tomorrow with another year soon to end and we begin looking back at bitcoin’s near eight-year history, hopefully we’ll start once more remembering where we came from and where we are going. For bitcoin, the code, is just an idea. An idea that payments can be made without an intermediary, that peers can directly exchange value as long as 51% of them are honest, that we can send money to any corner of the globe, and perhaps even to space, in seconds, for almost free. That a giant network of computers or servers spread across the world in all jurisdictions without requiring any permission to join or leave can provide us with direct control over our money, without any third-party interference, without any centralized authority, be that individual or group.
Bitcoin Black Friday is the perfect way to show all of these qualities in action as users across the world purchase real goods or services by using a trustless and permissionless payment network without any gatekeeper to deny them the service, ask them for any papers or other barriers, or hijack their value. Nor can anyone interfere with this golden payment network where anyone can see money was not double spent, nor inflated away, nor deflated, nor made to simply disappear.
“I hope everyone will have a good time this year, we're really excited to see the turnout this year, and well, I'm personally excited to purchase some gifts with Bitcoin again!” said Holmquist.
Happy Thanksgiving and have fun shopping on Bitcoin Black Friday 2016.
Images from Shutterstock, Beesbros, CryptoArt and BitPay.