At first glance, one might expect bitcoin to be something that would unite opponents of so-called fiat currencies—the government-printed dollars, yen and euros that form the backbone of global commerce but aren't backed by hard commodities like gold.
But that's not proving be the case. Not everyone who believes in currencies backed by gold believes in bitcoin.
"The main problem with bitcoin is it doesn't solve the problem of fiat money," said Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital and a staunch defender of gold. "You have no store of value in bitcoin because there's no value to store."
The endorsement of bitcoin by marquee investors like Richard Branson, the Winklevoss twins and Marc Andreessen has done little to assuage skeptics who doubt bitcoin's potential as a long-term complement or competitor to gold.
In addition to its lack of security and its short history, Schiff argued that for the virtual currency to rival gold or regular money, it would need to be widely accepted as a form of payment. The government would also have to see it as a store of value, something that hasn't happened yet.
"If you want to open it up to the masses, you have to make it acceptable to the government. But that sacrifices everything that makes the currency attractive" including its anonymity, he said.
Bitcoin "is not an efficient payment system," Schiff said, other than to those he derided as "Libertarian techno-geeks. It's tulip mania 2.0," he said, referencing the notorious 17th century speculative bubble in flowers that took place in Holland. Schiff said he believes the same fate awaits the cryptocurrency in a matter of years.