By Alex Slusher
Walk around the great hall during any free period. Students are buried in readings, submerged in essays, enveloped in science research projects, or attacking their keyboards in a fierce game of Counter Strike. However, closer examination to a small population of students will reveal a different focus: the crypto-currency market.
Popularized by the currency known as Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies have experienced unprecedented growth in both value and popularity since school began in September: On September 2nd, 2017, bitcoin was valued at $1635.88, four and a half months later, its value has skyrocketed to a remarkable $11,214.92 (as of January 17, 2018). To OES students, Bitcoin is an easier alternative to trading stocks and other traditional forms of investing.
Bitcoin is traded exclusively online, and is readily available to people of young age. The currency achieved popularity because it is decentralized, and rules are not imposed by a government, but instead by those in the trading community. However, Bitcoin’s lack of government regulation poses a high risk to negative behaviors such as scams and tax evasion.
The currency is especially attractive to high schoolers because of its low-regulation and volatility. It has arcade-game-like highs and lows, reminiscent of gambling in a Las Vegas Casino. Jacen Wilkins, profiled earlier this year by Charlie Norgaard, is a crypto-currency enthusiast, and has experienced real success in the cryptocurrency world. After an initial investment into Bitcoin which yielded a 230% return, he moved his profits into various other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, Bitcoin Gold, and Ripple. Although his progress has lagged a little due to a recent market-wide loss of $200 billion in cryptocurrency capital, Jacen has still retained a net positive gain on his initial investment. In addition to the money made during the process of investing, Jacen has turned his investing into a hobby: he follows the markets daily, and has learned excellent investment and financial strategies throughout the process. Jacen plans to diversify his holdings throughout many different cryptocurrencies in the future, and sees long term value in this new approach of investing.
Although investing in cryptocurrency has worked well for Jacen so far, it is important to note that not everyone will benefit from this new type of trading. There are quite a few dangers to trading on the online market. Firstly, extreme losses are always possible: the market is very volatile, and can skyrocket or plummet in a matter of seconds. Jacen described Bitconnect, a coin that he took a position in, which went from a stable price of $400 to a dismal price of $10 in a matter of minutes. Furthermore, cryptocurrencies have developed a reputation for involvement in fraudulent and criminal activity. For example, banned substances, weapons, and illegal services have all been sold using cryptocurrency. Scams such as Ponzi schemes and other financial scams have occured using cryptocurrencies.
Despite the obvious risks to using cryptocurrency, it can be positive if used the right way. Just like any other investing, due diligence and caution are required for financial and physical safety. If investors are cautious, the new crypto currency market can open up amazing new opportunities, but be cautious, because the online value can disappear in a matter of seconds.