When bidders at the annual Bonham car auction begin raising their paddles for the classic and exotic Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Bugattis, or calling in their offers from China, Dubai and Turkey, they will this year be able to close their sales quickly for the first time using cryptocurrency.
It may not sound like a big deal, but the benefit of closing fast is very appealing to many multi-millionaires who may be bidding for the 1913 Mercedes-Benz Phaeton or the 1964 Shelby Cobra 289 that is on the block this week during the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance in Carmel California.
According to Elizabeth White, CEO of The White Company., which makes a market that enables cryptocurrency holders in the luxury goods space, the number-one car among this crowd of crypto-wealth is Lamborghini.
A sale can take weeks or even a few months to close, especially if the buyer is using foreign non-USD currency. The way this works, though, is a buyer sends their cryptocurrency, usually bitcoin (but not always),to White’s cryptocurrency wallet electronically. Then, White which works like a hedge fund, issues the dollars to Bonham in about 30 minutes. “The great benefit of cryptocurrency is that it is a global currency, and is perfect for auction situations when you have bidders from all over the world,” White says.
Cryptocurrency is more volatile in its value than dollars, or just about any other currency. Value can vary wildly. And auction houses don’t want to get involved in having to have their own department that copes with bitcoin markets. But by opening up bidding to bitcoin millionaires who are wanting to monetize, or “dollarize,” their currency, they attract more bidders. More bidders mean better prices for their sellers.
White has transacted over 30 Lamborghinis, a $4M Ferrari and even worked on a sale with a 16-year-old who started mining bitcoin early on using his gaming computer, and bought a Nissan GTR when he didn’t even have his driver’s license yet.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have had the reputation of being the currency of choice of nefarious actors, who, have long had a penchant for Lambos. But, actually, bitcoin is no longer as much used by criminals as it was a few years ago when drug and arms dealers were found to be buying stuff on Tor sites like Silk Road.
A report from the cyber-security firm Recorded Future, shows that criminals have been increasingly turning away from bitcoin and shifting to other crypto-currencies like Dash and Litecoin. According to Recorded Future’s survey, 30% of dark web vendors accept Litecoin, and 20% accept Dash.
White counters the argument that she is attracting bad actors to Bonham. “Every transaction is recorded on the Blockchain, which is publicly accessible, so it is actually much more transparent,” says White. Also, says White, “We know who our clients are.”
White’s company is literally making the market for luxury goods for buyers because even using crypto-currency it could take a buyer many weeks to buy a million-dollar car because crypto-currency holders can only cash-out $10,000 per week in crypto-currency, but they can transfer the whole million to White’s firm in a keystroke. Of course, because of the volatility of the bitcoin value, someone might have to transfer, say, $1.1 million or more in cryptocurrency to White to buy a $1 million car, and then her firm decides to hold or trade the Bitcoin from there.
Recently, White launched a “stablecoin” with a price tied to the USD so avoid the volatility. She has a “wallet” exchange where people can seamlessly trade in their bitcoin for WSD (her stablecoin) to have more stability during the process and offset the volatility.
It’s not an enterprise for the faint of heart. The value of Bitcoin can fall or spike $1,000 in one day. Crypto-currencies overall are in a slump, compared with the much more robust stock market. But if you are buying Lamborghinis and Bugattis with crypto-currency, chances are you are accustomed to some risk.