Kiplinger

What You Need to Know About Bitcoin

When "Bitcoin" appeared as a clue in the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle earlier this year (the five-letter answer was "e-coin"), it was confirmation that the cryptocurrency had officially entered the zeitgeist. Such virtual currencies use computer-generated encryption to secure and track transactions, independent of a central bank. Bitcoin made headlines last year because of its meteoric rise from $963 per bitcoin at the start of 2017 to a high of nearly $20,000 in December. This year's news has been about bitcoin's descent, to a low of $7,000 in February, from which it was recently on the rebound.

The craze over bitcoin and its ilk--there are more than 1,000 digital currencies, although bitcoin is the best-known and the oldest--is as mythic as its beginning. (The true identity of bitcoin's creator or creators remains a hotly debated mystery.) Bitcoin was born in the aftermath of the financial crisis, when distrust of financial institutions was at a high, and a currency divorced from a central bank found wide appeal. The currency of choice for black-market buying crossed over to the mainstream with the purchase of a pizza in 2010. Techies glommed on, and by 2016, bitcoin was an investing phenomenon. Along the way, bitcoin has spawned as many skeptics as believers, while

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