Meanwhile a key selling point of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin is that, because they are free of political interference and are technically designed to prevent oversupply, they are immune from inflation and can be seen as a form of “digital gold”.
So what could be more natural than a Swiss cryptocurrency, fusing the country’s traditional monetary rigour with the instant access and universality of cyber money?
In August last year, such a cryptocurrency was indeed launched.
A subtle dig?
Given the name – Swisscoin – it is safe to assume that its promoters see the currency’s nationality as an asset.
The “availability worldwide” line may contain a subtle dig at the national authorities, who have always resisted the notion that the franc be a global reserve currency, like the dollar, sterling and the euro. Now, Swisscoin seems to offer the chance to own an electronic “Swissie” to anyone, anywhere.
So, how is it faring? The first point to make is that it was launched in the middle of a general slump in cryptocurrency values – not a promising backdrop for any cyber money debut.
As a result, the price per Swisscoin, while above that at launch, has hardly soared. It opened at $0.0004 and is currently about $0.0007.
More impressive was the growth in market capitalisation. From a slow start in early trading, it grew rapidly to $3.74 billion by 10 September, but then sunk back to $0.625 billion by 27 December.
It is currently at about $0.67 billion.
A crowded market
An obvious question is: how does Swisscoin work?
As the promoters explain, Swisscoin has its own “blockchain” – the decentralised computer-based ledger of transactions – “which comes off a fork of Bitcoin”. The blockchain system is designed to guard against both fraud and inflation.
Then, you can log on to a cryptocurrency exchange and buy Swisscoin.
Armed with Swisscoin, what can you do with it? Well, Swisscoin says its user community already totals 1.2 million people and: “The company is starting hundreds of partnerships with large companies in the world of finance and we already have 400,000 shops in 146 countries ready to accept Swisscoin.”
Perhaps the biggest problem facing Swisscoin is that of entering a crowded market, with about 2,000 cryptocurrencies in total around the world, albeit many are barely active.
The hope must be that the distinctive appeal of the currency’s homeland will help it to stand out from the rest.
Indeed, one feature mentioned by Swisscoin is that, for users, “it will be possible to buy gold”.
How very Swiss.