With digital currency and the blockchain edging ever more into the mainstream, Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies and the technology that powers them is beginning to be adopted as a platform for all manner of things – from humanitarian causes, to funding US presidential campaigns.
While there’s no doubting the potential that the blockchain has to revolutionise altruism, the luxury sector remains the destination of choice for the cryptocurrency elite, and luxury brands continue to rapidly evolve to accommodate a swathe of tech-savvy bitcoin pros, who are keen to spend their new-found wealth without converting it to fiat currency.
Starting with what must go down as the world’s costliest takeaway, we identify five markets that have moved swiftly to accommodate an influx of crypto cash.
Papa John’s Pizzas (well, sort of)
OK, this one is not quite as it seems – but it is quite a story. A decade ago, in the early days of Bitcoin’s circulation, cryptocurrency enthusiast Laszlo Hanyecz made the first ‘commercial’ transaction, of sorts, when he exchanged 10,000 BTC for two Papa John’s pizzas.
At the time, that amount of BTC was worth a little more than the cost of the pizzas, although Papa John’s was, understandably, not accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment. So, Hanyecz brokered a deal with a British forum user, who ordered the pizza in exchange for the cryptocurrency.
What happened in the year that followed would surely leave Hanyecz with a nasty feeling in the pit of his stomach, as Bitcoin’s value skyrocketed. Ten years on, the 10,000 BTC spent on a couple of Papa John’s pizzas are now worth just shy of £73m sterling. Ouch.
The anniversary of this now infamous story is celebrated every year by the cryptocurrency community as Bitcoin Pizza Day, and Hanyecz says he has no regrets about the purchase.
Luxury vehicles, boats, and airplanes
Now we’re talking! The industry has come a long way since Hanyecz’s speculative punt for a pizza in 2010, and luxury dealers of air, land and sea vehicles have been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to dealing in cryptocurrency.
In 2013, an Orange County car dealership in Southern California became one of the world’s first traditional car forecourts to broker a deal in cryptocurrency – selling a Tesla for 91.4 BTC (at the time, worth a little over $100,000).
Since then, luxury vehicle purchases using Bitcoin have become the norm – so much so, that the online crypto community has made a meme of the concept – asking “when Lambo?” for clarity on a trader’s overall success.
It’s not just car dealerships getting in on the act, however, with high-end yacht dealers, including Dennison Yachting and 26 North Yachts accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. Companies have also accepted cryptocurrency as payment for chartered jets, and, since 2013, you can buy a SkyCraft Airplane with the contents of your BitWallet.
A second citizenship
The idyllic and peaceful island of Vanuatu, in the South Pacific, became the first nation to accept bitcoin as a transactional means of purchasing citizenship by investment (CBI) in late 2017.
Like many early adopters of the cryptocurrency market, the Vanuatu government did not handle any of the cryptocurrency as a part of the transaction – which was brokered through an agent in Australia, with the country receiving the equivalent (around $180,000 USD) value in fiat currency.
The first nation to handle CBI transactions in cryptocurrency without an intermediary was Antigua and Barbuda, which began to accept bitcoin directly in the summer of 2018 – although they, too, converted it to fiat currency once the transaction was complete.
A degree-level education
Forward-thinking universities the world over adapted quickly to the emergence of cryptocurrencies, and a good number have been accepting crypto for tuition ever since.
The first higher education institution to accept cryptocurrency was the University of Nicosia, in Cyprus, back in 2013, followed by King’s College in the United States a year later.
Aside from the social clout attached to paying for your tuition in cryptocurrency, there are also benefits for all involved – including removal of intermediary/credit card fees, or accrued interest on a loan.
It is now fairly commonplace, and increasingly so, for education providers to accept cryptocurrency, and the University of Cumbria, the European School of Management and Technology Berlin, and the The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland have all dabbled with accepting cryptocurrency as payment since.
As we reported a little while ago, cryptocurrency has begun to creep into real estate transactions in the United Kingdom, and have been around in the luxury sector for a good many years.
Famously, New York City hedge funder Roy Niederhoffer put his $16m upper west side mansion up for sale on the proviso that the buyer paid exclusively in cryptocurrency, while Bitcoin investor Michael Komaransky sold his Miami home for 455 Bitcoin back in 2018.
From beach houses in Bali to 1.4acre plots of land on Lake Tahoe, and everything in-between, cryptocurrency is now being used to purchase bricks and mortar on the blockchain.