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Bitcoin: Technical Background and Data Analysis

Author

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  • Anton Badev
  • Matthew Chen

Abstract

This paper provides the necessary technical background to understand basic Bitcoin operations and documents a set of empirical regularities related to Bitcoin usage. We present the micro-structure of the Bitcoin transaction process and highlight the use of cryptography for the purposes of transaction security and distributed maintenance of a ledger. Using publicly available transaction-level data, we examine patterns of general usage together with usage by Satoshi Dice, the largest online gambling service using Bitcoin as the method of payment. Our analysis suggests that less than 50 percent of all bitcoins in circulation are used in transactions. About half of these transactions involve less than U.S.$100 equivalent, and for the period for which we have data for Satoshi Dice, most of these small-value transactions were related to the online gambling service. Relatively less frequent large value transactions drive the average transaction value to levels above U.S.$40,00 0 equivalent value, and are not likely to involve payments for goods and services. Bitcoin exchange rates exhibit somewhat complicated dynamics. In the past 24 months, the USD-BTC exchange rate increased more than 50-fold. The daily variance of the USD-BTC exchange rate remained remarkably stable for this same period, once the variance calculations account for the changing exchange rate level. We also document that the exchange rates between bitcoin and other major currencies are not well aligned. We interpret this as lack of depth of the exchange markets and as costly exchange rather than as unexploited arbitrage opportunities. Finally, we examine the economic incentives for the participants in the distributed implementation of the Bitcoin scheme.

Suggested Citation

  • Anton Badev & Matthew Chen, 2014. "Bitcoin: Technical Background and Data Analysis," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2014-104, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), revised 07 Oct 2014.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2014-104
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stephanie Lo & J. Christina Wang, 2014. "Bitcoin as money?," Current Policy Perspectives 14-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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    Cited by:

    1. Schilling, Linda & Uhlig, Harald, 2019. "Some simple bitcoin economics," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 16-26.
    2. Anna Iwona Piotrowska, 2016. "Fields Of Potential Use Of Cryptocurrencies In The Payment Services Market In Poland – Results Of An Empirical Study," Copernican Journal of Finance & Accounting, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika, vol. 5(2), pages 201-217.
    3. Wilko Bolt & Maarten R.C. Van Oordt, 2020. "On the Value of Virtual Currencies," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 52(4), pages 835-862, June.
    4. Marc Rysman & Scott Schuh, 2017. "New Innovations in Payments," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 27-48.
    5. Gianni Bonaiuti, 2019. "Schemi di pagamento e valute virtuali (Payment schemes and virtual currencies)," Moneta e Credito, Economia civile, vol. 72(288), pages 389-415.
    6. Fantazzini, Dean & Nigmatullin, Erik & Sukhanovskaya, Vera & Ivliev, Sergey, 2016. "Everything you always wanted to know about bitcoin modelling but were afraid to ask. I," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 44, pages 5-24.
    7. Yutaka Kurihara & Akio Fukushima, 2017. "The Market Efficiency of Bitcoin: A Weekly Anomaly Perspective," Journal of Applied Finance & Banking, SCIENPRESS Ltd, vol. 7(3), pages 1-4.
    8. Marek Dabrowski & Lukasz Janikowski, 2018. "Virtual currencies and their potential impact on financial markets and monetary policy," CASE Reports 0495, CASE-Center for Social and Economic Research.
    9. Zargar, Faisal Nazir & Kumar, Dilip, 2019. "Informational inefficiency of Bitcoin: A study based on high-frequency data," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 344-353.
    10. Anna Iwona Piotrowska & Dariusz Piotrowski, 2017. "Barriers to the functioning of the bitcoin system ? user assessment," Proceedings of Economics and Finance Conferences 4807736, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences.
    11. Zargar, Faisal Nazir & Kumar, Dilip, 2019. "Long range dependence in the Bitcoin market: A study based on high-frequency data," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 515(C), pages 625-640.
    12. William Roberds, 2016. "Review of Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism by Christine Desan," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(3), pages 906-921, September.
    13. Claus Dierksmeier & Peter Seele, 2018. "Cryptocurrencies and Business Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 152(1), pages 1-14, September.
    14. Gradon Nicholls, 2017. "Bitcoin awareness and usage in Canada," Canadian Stata Users' Group Meetings 2017 08, Stata Users Group.
    15. Jaroslav Bukovina & Matus Marticek, 2016. "Sentiment and Bitcoin Volatility," MENDELU Working Papers in Business and Economics 2016-58, Mendel University in Brno, Faculty of Business and Economics.
    16. Pieters, Gina & Vivanco, Sofia, 2017. "Financial regulations and price inconsistencies across Bitcoin markets," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 1-14.
    17. Nelson, Bill, 2018. "Financial stability and monetary policy issues associated with digital currencies," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 76-78.
    18. Greg W. Hunter & Craig Kerr, 2019. "Virtual Money Illusion and the Fundamental Value of Non-Fiat Anonymous Digital Payment Methods," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 25(2), pages 151-164, May.
    19. Claire Greene & Scott Schuh & Joanna Stavins, 2016. "The 2014 survey of consumer payment choice: summary results," Research Data Report 16-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    20. E. Fedorova A. & K. Bechvaya Z. & O. Rogov Yu. & Е. Федорова А. & К. Бечвая З. & О. Рогов Ю., 2018. "Влияние Тональности Новостей На Курс Биткоина // The Influence Of The Tonality Of News On The Exchange Rate Of Bitcoin," Финансы: теория и практика/Finance: Theory and Practice // Finance: Theory and Practice, ФГОБУВО Финансовый университет при Правительстве Российской Федерации // Financial University under The Government of Russian Federation, vol. 22(4), pages 104-113.
    21. Beata Szetela & Grzegorz Mentel & Stanislaw Gedek, 2016. "Dependency analysis between Bitcoin and selected global currencies," Dynamic Econometric Models, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika, vol. 16, pages 133-144.

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    Keywords

    Payment systems; Bitcoin; virtual currency;

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