Last week the price dropped 200 dollars in an hour when the Securities and Exchange Commission refused to approve a bitcoin exchange traded fund. If that had happened, the price of a single bitcoin would have skyrocketed according to most analysts. As it stands now a bitcoin is worth around $1,250 (the price fluctuates rapidly in both directions).
When we first looked at the bitcoin in 2011 it was worth $86.
What is bitcoin? First, it isn't an actual coin or any physical representation of money. It is traded and held solely online in cyber-wallets. It can be spent at online retailers but only a handful that you've heard of. Overstock.com is one of just a few mainstream retailers that accept it.
Bitcoins can be purchased online or at a limited number of ATMs scattered across the country. At these ATMs a customer will submit actual cash in exchange for a paper receipt. The actual bitcoin goes into the user's 'wallet'. Bitcoin is an international currency and a commodity in the U.S. and many other countries.
While bitcoin is used for online purchases at reputable websites it is the currency of choice on the Dark and Deep Webs. Since it is practically untraceable (though it can often be traced) bitcoin is used for illegal activity online such as buying and selling of guns, illegal porn and drugs. It is also used by hackers and anyone stealing and selling stolen identities online.
Bitcoin is unregulated by any government and is a peer-to-peer currency therefore many people believe it to be more stable than currency of a country or bank.
As of this writing a single bitcoin is worth more than an ounce of gold.