How to Get Bitcoins
Bitcoins can be obtained in numerous ways, each of which are entirely different from one another. It is important to note that bitcoins are incredibly easy to send. As a result, they take the form of a highly transferable commodity. This is important because, although this guide will walk through the common ways to get bitcoins, there are actually countless ways to get them as they can be sent in exchange for anything the other party is willing to accept.
Is A Whole Bitcoin Really “Too Expensive”?
Bitcoin is divisible by nine decimal places. As a digital currency, one of bitcoin’s biggest attributes is its ability to be sent in increments called “satoshis.”
As a result, bitcoin can be bought, sold or exchanged in increments much smaller than an entire bitcoin. For example, if one whole bitcoin is $10,000, a smaller amount of bitcoin — represented as 0.01 BTC, for example — would cost just $100.
In Bitcoin’s early days, and we mean really early, the practical way to obtain bitcoins was by mining. Mining is the process by which newly minted bitcoins are released. Back then, the difficulty of the network was low enough that regular computers’ processing units (CPUs) and graphic processing units (GPUs) could mine bitcoins at very little cost.
Today, the landscape around Bitcoin has matured into an industry worth billions. As a result, the methods around acquiring the digital currency have evolved to more than just mining. Nonetheless, mining is still possible.
The incredibly low-cost days of mining bitcoin, which only lasted a couple years, were days where one bitcoin was so cheap that it financially made sense to mine them at a very low cost instead of buying them. For context, the first exchange rate given to bitcoin was in October 2009, 10 months after the first block was mined. The rate, established by the now-defunct New Liberty Standard exchange, gave the value of a bitcoin at US $1=1309.03 BTC. It was calculated using an equation that includes the cost of electricity to run a computer that generated bitcoins. This was the period of time where bitcoins, which were looked at as little more than a newly created internet novelty, could be mined in large quantities using an average computer.
Today, mining bitcoin is still a viable option, but different measures need to be taken in order to mine properly with the current level of difficulty.
Mining requires special hardware that performs the extremely rapid computations necessary to mine bitcoins. The hashrate, or the total power of all miners, is so substantial that hardware found in average computers (or any computers, for that matter) cannot perform mining calculations fast enough to produce any meaningful results. This specialized hardware is called an ASIC, or Application Specific Integrated Circuit.
Exchanges are by far the most common way to get bitcoin. Exchanges are platforms that allow users to purchase cryptocurrencies for a different medium of exchange, usually fiat currency. Exchanges do this through an order book, or a ledger, that matches instructions to buy or sell. These instructions are called “bids” and “asks,” respectively.
Whenever referring to the price of Bitcoin as it relates to fiat currency, the price being discussed is almost certainly an aggregate average of the price across various exchanges’ order books. Because bids and asks are instructions executed at a certain price, a large market buy would fill through several orders at incremental price levels and subsequently move the price of bitcoin up or down.
There are many well-known exchanges in most developed countries. Exchange usually require the use of a debit card or bank account in order to transfer funds over to the exchange.
One of the main purposes of using an over-the-counter (OTC) desk is to avoid affecting the price of bitcoin. In a practical sense, an OTC desk acts as a middleman for buyers and sellers to complete bitcoin transactions of custom sizes outside the operations of an exchange’s order book.
Instead of using an order book, OTC desks connect buy and sell orders directly between people. Desks are most commonly used for buying or selling incredibly large quantities of bitcoin, often surpassing millions of dollars in value. Some OTC desks even require a minimum trade value. Often, they are used specifically because a purchase or sale of such a large quantity need not affect the order books of exchanges. If a large order were to be filled on an exchange’s order book, it would significantly move the price of bitcoin. This is sometimes unfavorable for someone looking to buy or sell bitcoins without shifting the market price or without drawing attention to the transaction (OTC desks are not required to publicly disclose purchases).
Earning bitcoin in exchange for goods and services is just as feasible an option as mining or investing in the digital currency. There are businesses that allow people to earn bitcoin in exchange for services, including some freelance job listing sites where people are paid in bitcoin, as well as businesses accumulate bitcoin by accepting it as a payment method.
In some cases, earning bitcoin is the most practical option for someone if their business is already operating. There is no real transition most businesses need to undergo in order to earn bitcoin: It is as simple as providing the option for people to pay with it with services like BTCPay or BitPay. You can even just add a BTC wallet address to an invoice.
Earning bitcoin in this manner has some variables associated with it, like whether the business is accepting bitcoin directly or through Lightning micropayments. Options like this are important to consider for a business owner for reasons surrounding ease of use and level of privacy (Lightning micropayments are much more private and cheaper than transactions settled directly on the Bitcoin blockchain).