Mary Fons joined the Bitcoin economy earlier this year. She uses the digital currency to buy gift cards and office supplies. Her partner reimburses her with Bitcoin for his portion of the rent. Unlike many of the currency’s early adopters, Fons, 35, isn’t a nerd or a self-proclaimed libertarian. She lives in New York and co-hosts the Love of Quilting show on public television. “Why Bitcoin?” she asks. “Because I want to have options. I think it’s a beautiful thing open to everyone.”
Even as the value of Bitcoin has fallen 55 percent this year against the dollar (price on Oct. 8: $344), consumers are embracing the digital currency. People have opened 41 million Bitcoin accounts worldwide, according to the Bank of England. Parents are dispensing allowances in Bitcoin to teach their kids to be digital citizens. Marijuana smokers are buying buds from Bitcoin-enabled vending machines. Consumers in emerging markets such as Brazil and Russia are starting to use Bitcoin to hedge their volatile currencies. While the total value of Bitcoin commerce isn’t known, Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, estimates global spending on goods and services using the currency has doubled in the past year.