In Manhattan, a cup of coffee will set you back about $2. Or .00098 Bitcoin. Or—here’s a new one—12,500 NewYorkCoins.
Never mind alternative currencies such as Tigercoin, Ethereum and BiblePay. There’s a cryptocurrency named for our fair city, and it’s gaining momentum.
Last week, I met two of the coin’s volunteer boosters at Gila’s Nosh on East 23rd Street, one of several local businesses accepting NewYorkCoin as payment.
James Burrell, a high-energy business lawyer, and Charles Fulnecky, a low-key developer, explained the currency’s features.
Transactions are confirmed in 30 seconds—20 times faster than Bitcoin, they said. And there’s no network fee on small transactions like buying groceries, making it ideal for daily use.
Of course, like most cryptocurrencies, NewYorkCoin runs on open-source code available to anyone online.
Bitcoin’s price has risen more than 900% this year, but it’s seen wild fluctuations ranging from 44% up or 25% down against the dollar. The WSJ’s Thomas Di Fonzo visits New York City’s bitcoin ATMs to demonstrate just how volatile the virtual currency can be in just a day. Photo: Alexander Hotz / The Wall Street Journal
“Can’t I just take your code, launch my own currency and call it Anne Coin?” I asked.
“Of course,” said Mr. Burrell.
“Absolutely!” said Mr. Fulnecky. “But it’s not just the code. It’s the community that builds up the coin.”
NewYorkCoin, created in 2014 by an unknown developer, has enjoyed a surge of support in recent months. More businesses are accepting the currency and there’s a growing interest among cryptocurrency developers. There’s even a new Meetup group where enthusiasts who frequent online forums can gather in person to discuss their altcoin adventures.
Everyone jumping on the bandwagon has a different angle. Mr. Fulnecky says projects like building a mobile-wallet app for the coin are a fascinating challenge. “I’d rather be doing this than anything else I can think of, from a coding perspective,” he said.
For Alexander Nicholas, it’s a chance to get in early on a new trend. He’s accepting the currency at KEATS, his Manhattan bar, and at his EPIC Hybrid Training fitness studios. “That’s just my mind-set, being ahead,” he says.
He’s even hosting the community’s monthly Meetup in his bar, where he plans to install the world’s first NewYorkCoin ATM.
Then there’s the miners, people like Cameron Tareen who digitally mint NewYorkCoin on their home mining rigs.
Mr. Tareen started mining NewYorkCoin last month after researching currencies that could be profitably produced. His says his rig churns out about 50,000 NewYorkCoins a day—worth roughly $7.50. The electricity used to power his machine, meanwhile, costs about $2 a day. That’s a small gain, he accedes, but if the value of the currency hits $1, he’ll be a millionaire many times over.
Despite growing support, the coin’s future is far from certain. Its value peaked earlier this year at $0.001162. The total market cap of all NewYorkCoin in circulation is just $22 million, compared with Bitcoin’s $196 billion.
Then there’s the split between the community’s two factions: The group associated with Mr. Burrell, and a group led by “ Charlie K. ,” a Bronx native living in Colorado.
Charlie K. who, like many in the cryptocurrency community insists on anonymity, makes frequent trips to New York City to promote the coin, including a weekend walking the streets of Manhattan wearing a sandwich board. “It was a little goofy, but it got people’s attention,” he said.
He says he’s planning to open a storefront gallery in lower Manhattan next month, extolling the coin’s benefits and history.
Mr. Burrell’s crowd isn’t sure such promotional efforts are necessary or even desirable. The two factions have launched rival websites, designed competing logos, and sparred over development issues. But it’s a friendly dispute, both sides contend.
“I kind of look at him as the crazy uncle,” says Mr. Fulnecky of Charlie K. “We’re family.”
NewYorkCoin has a lot going for it, says Bitcoin and blockchain expert Nick Spanos, founder of the Bitcoin Center NYC.
“You can’t discount a coin that’s been alive for so long,” says Mr. Spanos, who has no investment in NewYorkCoin.
And the name doesn’t hurt, he adds: “It’s not, like, Oshkosh Coin, it’s New York City!”
So yes, I’m now the proud owner of 250,000 NewYorkCoins—worth about $40. I suggested to Mr. Burrell and Mr. Fulnecky that we meet again in a year or two, all driving our Lamborghinis.
“You mean our moon Lambos,” said the optimistic Mr. Fulnecky. “We’ll have Elon Musk shoot us up to the moon.”