Investments that are denominated in a given currency include money-market funds, bonds, mortgages, bank deposits, and other instruments. Most of these currency-based investments are thought of as „safe.” In truth they are among the most dangerous of assets.
Over the past century these instruments have destroyed the purchasing power of investors in many countries, even as these holders continued to receive timely payments of interest and principal. This ugly result, moreover, will forever recur. Governments determine the ultimate value of money, and systemic forces will sometimes cause them to gravitate to policies that produce inflation. From time to time such policies spin out of control.
Even in the U.S., where the wish for a stable currency is strong, the dollar has fallen a staggering 86% in value since 1965, when I took over management of Berkshire. It takes no less than $7 today to buy what $1 did at that time.
For speculators, the math is incredibly compelling. If you spent $100 on bitcoins the day after the Slashdot article came out, those coins would have been worth $72,500 when the Gawker article came out just under a year later. And they would have been worth $250,000 a week after that. Today, they would be worth more than $1 million. There aren’t many perfectly legal investments which offer that kind of return.