Virtual-Currency Craze Spawns Bitcoin Wannabes

by Joe Light, The Wall Street Journal  |  published on November 21, 2013

Gary Thomas plans to get rich off virtual currencies—but not bitcoin. The electrical engineer is betting big on newcomers like alphacoin and fastcoin.

Mr. Thomas started trading the digital currencies from his home outside Boston earlier this year. He said he is convinced this is his ticket to fortune, even after an earlier attempt—investing in Internet stocks during the dot-com bubble—ended in disaster.

“I think this is a point in history that will never be repeated,” said Mr. Thomas, who is in his 50s. “These things will take off like nobody will imagine.”

A “cryptocurrency” craze has spawned more than 80 entrants, from peercoin and namecoin, to worldcoin and hobonickels. In October and November alone, developers launched gridcoin, fireflycoin and zeuscoin. Bbqcoin has enjoyed a renaissance after a false start in 2012. Litecoin, launched in 2011, has turned into the strongest bitcoin alternative.

Virtual-currency experts credit bitcoin’s explosion into the public consciousness for a flurry of new currencies—and an increasing legion of fans hoping to make a quick buck trading them. Bitcoin, launched in 2009, fetched about $548 a coin as of late-afternoon Wednesday in New York, making all the existing bitcoin worth about $6.6 billion, according to, which averages bitcoin prices across exchanges. Its rise sparked hearings on Capitol Hill this week during which enforcement agencies described it as a legitimate currency but expressed worries that it could be used for illegal activities.

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