Gold vs Bitcoin: Comparison, Benefits, Drawbacks, Alternatives

Author: Focus on the User | 6 min read
Gold vs Bitcoin

Gold and Bitcoin represent two distinct forms of investment, each with unique attributes and historical significance. Gold, a tangible asset, has been a valued form of currency and store of value for over 5,000 years. Its history is deeply intertwined with the evolution of financial systems and it's known for its stability and practical uses, such as in jewelry and electronics.

On the other hand, Bitcoin, a purely digital asset created in 2009, stands at the forefront of blockchain technology. It is characterized by high volatility, a speculative nature, and serves as a symbol of innovation in digital currency and investment. While both are considered as stores of value and hedges against economic uncertainties, they differ greatly in terms of physicality, regulatory environment, market behavior, and practical applications.

1. Gold's Physical, Bitcoin's Digital

Gold, with its tangible presence, has been a symbol of wealth and stability for millennia. As of the latest estimates, there are about 197,576 tonnes of gold reserves globally. Its physical nature has historically made it a trusted medium of exchange and a store of value.

In stark contrast, Bitcoin, born in the digital age, is an entirely virtual entity. Created in 2009 by an unknown individual or group using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, it exists on a decentralized blockchain network. Bitcoin's design limits its total supply to a mere 21 million coins, a stark contrast to the vast, although finite, quantity of physical gold.

2. Gold's Historical Relevance

The historical significance of gold cannot be overstated. An estimated 190,000 tonnes of gold have been extracted throughout history, with its usage tracing back over 5,000 years. Gold's importance was highlighted in financial systems like the Gold Standard and the Bretton Woods System, where it was used as a basis for currency valuation and international trade until 1971.

Find Out How to Invest Gold in Your IRA

3. Bitcoins Early History

Bitcoin's journey began with the mining of the first block, known as the Genesis Block, on January 3, 2009. The first Bitcoin transaction occurred shortly after, marking the beginning of a new era in digital currency. Early milestones include establishing its first exchange rate, where 1,309.03 bitcoins equaled $1 in October 2009, and the notable purchase of two pizzas for 10,000 bitcoins in May 2010, a transaction now celebrated annually in the Bitcoin community as "Bitcoin Pizza Day."

4. Bitcoin is a Speculative Investment

Bitcoin's market behavior is characterized by significant volatility. Its value peaked at nearly USD 65,000 in April 2021, only to fall to about USD 30,000 by July 2021. This volatility is influenced by various factors, including investor sentiment, regulatory changes, and technological advancements like the Lightning Network, which aims to enable faster transactions.

5. Gold's Known as a 'Safe Haven'

Gold has long been considered a safe haven, especially during economic downturns. For instance, during the 2008 financial crisis, gold prices rose by 25.6%, while the S&P 500 plummeted by 38.5%. Over the past 50 years, gold has consistently maintained its value, with an average annual price increase of around 10%.

6. Bitcoin is Highly Volatile

Bitcoin's price is notoriously volatile. In January 2021, its value dropped by 20% within a mere 24 hours, and in May 2021, it experienced a rapid 30% decline. Factors contributing to this volatility include speculative trading, reactions to regulatory news, and broader macroeconomic trends that seem to affect Bitcoin more significantly than traditional assets.

7. Gold is Well-Regulated

The gold market is governed by strict regulations from entities like the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) and the World Gold Council. These regulations ensure the purity and ethical sourcing of gold. The LBMA's Good Delivery standard, for instance, requires gold bars to be at least 99.5% pure and weigh between 350 and 430 troy ounces.

8. Gold Has Practical Uses

Gold's practical applications extend beyond its role as an investment and store of value. Annually, about 78% of consumed gold is used in jewelry. The remaining 22% finds its way into electronics, investments, and other industries. Its properties, such as electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance, make gold invaluable in high-precision electronic devices, including smartphones.

Gold and Bitcoin Similarities

Despite their differences, gold and Bitcoin share some common characteristics. Both are considered hedges against inflation and currency devaluation, particularly attractive during economic uncertainties. Their limited supplies—gold's physical scarcity and Bitcoin's capped quantity of 21 million coins—play a crucial role in their perceived value retention over time.

Stores of Value

Gold has demonstrated its ability to store value, yielding an average annual return of around 10%. This is attributed to its scarcity and the limited amount of gold mined each year. Similarly, Bitcoin's fixed supply cap underlines its store of value characteristic. Despite its volatility, Bitcoin has shown a consistent appreciation trend over the past decade, indicating its growing acceptance as a store of value.

Alternatives to Traditional Financial Assets

Both gold and Bitcoin offer alternatives to traditional financial assets. Gold's substantial market capitalization of approximately USD 11 trillion contrasts with Bitcoin's market cap of around USD 800 billion. Their independence from conventional financial systems makes them appealing during times of economic instability, such as inflation or currency devaluation.

Decentralized Similarity

Gold's value and trade are not governed by any single entity, making it a reliable asset against geopolitical risks and currency devaluation. Bitcoin, with its decentralized blockchain network maintained by a global community, ensures no single entity controls its operation, offering a unique combination of financial freedom and privacy.

Influenced by Market Sentiment

Gold prices are influenced by various factors, including interest rates, geopolitical stability, and economic indicators. For example, its price increased by about 18% in 2020, driven by the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, Bitcoin's price is highly sensitive to investor sentiment, media coverage, and technological advancements, as seen in its rapid price increase during 2020-2021, partly fueled by growing institutional interest and mainstream adoption.

Historical Performance of Gold vs Bitcoin

Gold has historically offered steady returns, averaging around 10% annually over the past 50 years, with occasional spikes during economic downturns. In contrast, Bitcoin has seen explosive growth since its inception, marked by extreme price fluctuations. Its peak value reached nearly USD 65,000 in April 2021, followed by significant drops and recoveries, illustrating its highly volatile nature.

Future Prices of Gold and Bitcoin

Predicting the future prices of both assets is challenging. Gold has shown a steady upward trend in value over the past 50 years, punctuated by occasional sharp increases, like the 25% rise in 2019 due to economic tensions.

Bitcoin, however, has experienced a more dramatic trajectory, with a staggering 9,000,000% increase in the 2010s, although its short-term fluctuations are notably significant.

Investing in Gold or Bitcoin

Investment options for gold range from physical gold, with prices varying from USD 50 for a 1-gram bar to over USD 1,950 for a one-ounce coin, to gold ETFs like SPDR Gold Shares (GLD). Bitcoin investments can be made directly on exchanges like Coinbase or Binance, with transaction fees between 0.1% and 1.5%, or through Bitcoin ETFs like the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC).

Adding Gold/Bitcoin to Retirement

Incorporating gold into retirement portfolios can be done through Gold IRAs, which allow for investment in physical gold, adhering to IRS regulations on purity and storage. Bitcoin can be added to retirement plans via Bitcoin IRAs, offering a high-risk, high-reward component to retirement savings, though this requires self-directed IRA models and adherence to IRS guidelines for cryptocurrencies.

Gold IRA

Gold IRAs involve IRS-approved custodians and depositories. The costs include setup fees (up to USD 50), annual maintenance fees (USD 50-300), and storage fees (0.5%-1% of account value). Eligible gold investments for IRAs include coins like the American Eagle and Canadian Maple Leaf, as well as gold bars with a minimum purity of 99.5%. You can rollover your IRA into gold with a reputable company.

Bitcoin IRA

Bitcoin IRAs have similar fees to Gold IRAs, including setup, maintenance, and storage fees, with added costs for security measures like multi-signature wallets. These IRAs allow investment in Bitcoin and sometimes other cryptocurrencies, offering higher potential returns but increased risk.

Investing in Bitcoin Online

Online Bitcoin investment platforms have varying fee structures. For instance, Coinbase charges about 1.49% for bank transfers, while Binance charges 0.1% per trade. Key considerations include the platform's security features, customer support, and user interface.

Buying Gold Through an Online Dealer

Purchasing gold online involves considering factors like pricing, transaction transparency, customer reviews, and buyback policies. Online dealers often offer competitive prices close to the spot price of gold, with additional costs for shipping and insurance. The range of products available includes bullion coins and bars, making it crucial to select a reputable dealer.

Diversifying With Gold or Bitcoin

Diversification strategies suggest allocating up to 10% of a portfolio in gold for stability and up to 5% in Bitcoin for growth potential. This approach aims to balance the portfolio against market volatility, leveraging gold's stability and Bitcoin's high growth potential, albeit with higher risk.

Risk Factors of Investing in Gold or Bitcoin

Investing in gold carries risks like market price volatility, influenced by factors such as the strength of the USD and global economic stability, along with costs associated with storage and insurance. Bitcoin's risks include extreme price volatility, regulatory changes, technological vulnerabilities (like hacking), and its relatively short history compared to traditional investments.

Market Liquidity of Gold and Bitcoin

Gold boasts a global trading volume exceeding USD 100 billion per day, offering high liquidity and the ability to sell quickly without significantly impacting the market price. Bitcoin's average daily trading volume is around USD 40 billion, but liquidity can vary across different exchanges and be impacted by large transactions.

Tax Rules For Gold

In many jurisdictions, gold is subject to capital gains tax, with rates ranging from 0% to 20%, depending on the investor’s income level. Large transactions may require reporting, and taxes on dividends from gold-related securities might also apply.

Tax Rules For Bitcoin

Bitcoin is typically taxed as property, with capital gains tax applicable on profits from selling or trading. Similar to gold, long-term capital gains tax rates can range from 0% to 20%. Taxable events include selling Bitcoin for fiat, trading for other cryptocurrencies, and using Bitcoin for purchases. Accurate record-keeping is crucial for tax compliance.

Alternative Cryptocurrency Investment Options

Beyond Bitcoin, there are several other cryptocurrencies worth considering for investment:


Ethereum is renowned for its smart contract functionality. As the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Ether (ETH) offers investment potential in decentralized finance (DeFi), non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and the anticipated Ethereum 2.0 upgrade, aimed at enhancing scalability and energy efficiency.


Litecoin, created in 2011 as a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency, is often compared to silver, with Bitcoin likened to gold. It is known for quicker transaction confirmation times and uses a different hashing algorithm. Litecoin offers a more accessible entry point compared to Bitcoin and is favored for smaller, faster transactions.


Ripple (XRP) functions both as a digital payment protocol and a cryptocurrency. It focuses on enabling real-time cross-border payment systems. Investing in Ripple involves considering its use in the banking sector, ongoing legal challenges, and its potential impact on international money transfers.


ZCash is a privacy-focused cryptocurrency offering "shielded" transactions that conceal the sender, recipient, and transaction amount. While appealing to those valuing transaction privacy, investors should be mindful of the regulatory challenges associated with privacy coins.


Tether (USDT) is a stablecoin, typically pegged to the US dollar, combining cryptocurrency flexibility with the stability of traditional currencies. Tether's appeal lies in its stability and use as a hedge against crypto market volatility, though investors should consider controversies regarding its reserve backing.

BNB Coin

Originally created for Binance, BNB Coin has expanded its use to various applications, including trading fee discounts and decentralized app (dApp) usage. Investment considerations include its association with Binance and its growing ecosystem encompassing DeFi and NFTs.


Monero emphasizes anonymity and privacy in transactions, using advanced cryptography for confidentiality. It suits those prioritizing transaction privacy but comes with potential regulatory scrutiny.

Alternative Precious Metal Investment Options

In addition to gold, other precious metals offer investment opportunities:


Silver is used in electronics, solar energy, and medicine, influencing its market demand. Investments can be made in physical silver, silver ETFs, or stocks of silver mining companies. Its price is more volatile than gold but may offer higher returns.


Platinum, primarily used in automotive catalytic converters and jewelry, offers investment potential due to its rarity and industrial demand. Its price volatility requires careful consideration.


Palladium, similar to platinum, is used in catalytic converters, electronics, and dentistry. Its investment appeal lies in industrial demand and scarcity, though it is subject to high price volatility and industry-specific risks.

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Disclaimer: Content on this website is not intended to be used as financial advice. It is not to be used as a recommendation to buy, sell, or trade an asset that requires a licensed broker. Consult a financial advisor.

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