The ev­ery­day in­vestors who use Bit­coin in South Wales

Cynon Valley - - YOUR NEWS - ANNA LEWIS anna.lewis@waleson­

IN A street known for its quirk­i­ness, the Cas­tle Em­po­rium on Wo­manby Street has some of the shops you might ex­pect – such as a cof­fee stall and a vin­tage clothes store.

But tucked away in the en­trance stands an ATM – for Bit­coin.

One of two such cash­points in Cardiff, the con­cept is sim­ple. You can ei­ther buy or sell the cur­rency us­ing cash or card for a trans­ac­tion fee.

If you’re sell­ing, it will give you the Bit­coin value.

Those work­ing nearby re­port the ma­chine is nearly con­stantly in use, and some in Wales have used it to make their for­tune.

A prop­erty de­vel­oper and in­vestor by trade, Adrian Hib­bert started in­vest­ing in the dig­i­tal cur­rency in 2015 when he bought about $100,000 of Bit­coin min­ing pro­grammes.

Adrian, who is orig­i­nally from the Rhondda but now lives in Cardiff Bay, claims that pot is worth about $7.9m (£7m) in cryp­tocur­rency.

He said: “I missed the early days of it in 2009, but by 2015 I started to see the trend ap­pear on­line.

“I made around £1m from prop­erty which is my favourite mar­ket. It was good times.

“But prop­erty comes with its down­sides – ten­ants trash­ing the place, peo­ple gazump­ing you, so­lic­i­tors, es­tate agents. Ev­ery­one adds to it.”

He added: “I’ve earned more in two years us­ing Bit­coin than I did over 20 years in prop­erty.”

He added: “I can cash that in when­ever I want.”“Peo­ple say ‘oh that’s just jok­ing money’ - but I have a Visa debit card linked up to it.

“I can pay for my petrol, bread, milk or eggs us­ing it.”

Those work­ing nearby re­port the ma­chine is nearly con­stantly in use.Mike Rid­out, co-owner of neigh­bour­ing Cardiff Skate­board­ing Club, orig­i­nally bought one Bit­coin for £50 a hand­ful of years ago. It is now worth about £15,000.

“Will the bub­ble burst? I don’t know,” he says.

“I haven’t spent it so it just sits there and I’m won­der­ing what to do with it. It’s hard to ig­nore. Some of my friends use it and I know a lot of peo­ple use it for gen­eral trans­ac­tions.

“I don’t want to make a mis­take on­line with it. I’m hop­ing it will be­come a lit­tle more reg­u­lated.”

Dur­ing the space of an hour a slow trickle of peo­ple come to use the ATM.

For self-em­ployed clothes de­signer Michael Smith, his trip comes af­ter find­ing his old lo­gin de­tails to his bit­coin app af­ter five years.

Michael, 28, said: “I had a Bit­coin app on my old phone and I lost that phone.

“The Bit­coin stays in the sys­tem but I didn’t have my 10-let­ter pass­code.

“Last night I was go­ing through some old hard drives and found a screen­shot of it backed up.

“It was in the first folder of ran­dom pic­tures.”

Af­ter hear­ing about the rel­a­tively new con­cept at the time, Michael orig­i­nally bought his Bit­coin for less than £100.

He said: “I started with the equip­ment and was min­ing them my­self about five or six years ago.

“I bought one Bit­coin for £90 and lost it about four years ago. At the time no-one trusted it.”

The next per­son to use the ma­chine is a 55-yearold mother of one.

Af­ter trav­el­ling down from Rhym­ney on the train, her first stop is to use the ATM be­fore do­ing some Christ­mas shop­ping.

Af­ter be­ing told about the on­line cur­rency by her son ear­lier this year her whole fam­ily is now in­volved, in­clud­ing her 80-year-old dad.

The pri­vate carer said: “I haven’t in­vested much be­cause we don’t have a lot of spare money. My son used to live in Lon­don and moved to Spain to work and he said ‘any­thing you have just put in.’

“I was a bit ner­vous be­fore I did it but now Bit­coin is more sta­ble.”

De­spite hav­ing no pre­vi­ous knowl­edge of cryp­tocur­rency, to­gether the fam­ily have in­vested about £800 and have watched their money triple.

The self-taught in­vestor said: “I’m pre­dict­ing it’s value will go up to $100,000 but dif­fer­ent peo­ple say dif­fer­ent things...

“My dad had a pen­sion and put into it for 30 years. He said if this was 50 years ago he’d have put the money in here in­stead.”

She added: “We’re just see­ing if we can make a dif­fer­ence to our lives in­stead of plod­ding on through the same old wheel.

“I’ve got a lot of friends who said they wouldn’t do it but you have to take a chance in life.”

For 32-year-old Si­mon Miles from Merthyr Tyd­fil, get­ting started in the dig­i­tal cur­rency was a risky busi­ness.

A for­mer rail­way worker, Si­mon now owns his own Bit­coin com­pany Misoneism Limited buy­ing and sell­ing Bit­coin to oth­ers.

Tak­ing a gam­ble in 2015, he in­vested £12,000 to buy his first ATM which now sits in the Cas­tle Em­po­rium.

He said: “I came across the ex­change and started trad­ing it through the web six years ago.

“Peo­ple would come to me and I would charge a pre­mium for find­ing Bit­coin and it was a lot faster.

“It’s much the same as eBay. You can auc­tion the prod­uct and you might have some cheaper but then you might have some­one whose rep­u­ta­tion is bet­ter and you pay the pre­mium.”

Af­ter com­ing across the con­cept in a hunt for a new in­vest­ment, Si­mon ad­vised his friends to get in­volved early.

He said: “I was look­ing for some­thing to get my teeth into – some­thing a bit like Ap­ple. I take more risks than the av­er­age per­son so I told my friends about Bit­coins. When I started the price fell from £600 or £700 to £70.

“I re­mem­ber sit­ting around a ta­ble in the pub with my mates and say­ing, ‘I know it doesn’t look good but if you have any money to in­vest now is the time.’”

The en­tre­pre­neur added: “In the early days peo­ple thought it would only be drug deal­ers that were in­ter­ested – it had that stigma at­tached which isn’t the case.

“It is part of the sys­tem but peo­ple have to take that, it’s the same as when peo­ple use GBP.”

Such warn­ings, and con­cerns about crim­i­nals us­ing the cur­rency for money laun­der­ing, have prompted calls for the use of Bit­coin to be­come more reg­u­lated.

In the mean­time, with such a sud­den spike in users, Si­mon’s big­gest con­cern lies with keep­ing up with de­mand.

He said: “I’m al­most not able to sup­ply to de­mand.

“We might be in for a bit of a roller­coaster but as long as peo­ple can keep their emo­tion in check they will be fine.

“The fu­ture is dif­fi­cult to pre­dict, it’s a beast in its own right.”

But de­spite the raft of suc­cess sto­ries, fi­nan­cial ex­perts warn Bit­coin gains are un­sus­tain­able, point­ing to the volatil­ity in its value over the past eight years.

Fi­nan­cial jour­nal­ist and Money Sav­ing Ex­pert founder Martin Lewis has warned that while the Bit­coin value may con­tinue to rise there is a “de­cent chance” it is also a bub­ble which could soon burst.

On his per­sonal blog he writes: “It may be that this spec­u­la­tive rise will con­tinue, which means if you put your money in now you will make a for­tune.

“On the other hand, as we’ve seen of­ten in his­tory – whether it’s the canal ma­nia of the 18th cen­tury or the first in­ter­net boom – this could just be a tulip bub­ble, and soon to burst.”

Jamie Di­mon, CEO of Amer­ica’s big­gest bank JP Mor­gan, made Bit­coin value fall by 6% in Septem­ber af­ter say­ing he would fire any­one in the com­pany found to be us­ing the cur­rency.

De­scrib­ing the cur­rency as a “fraud”, he pre­dicts peo­ple will “pay the price” with a cur­rency so re­liant “on what other guys will pay for it”.


Bit­coin has seen a sud­den spike in users re­cently

A Bit­coin ATM in Cardiff

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