Richard Sherman accepts bitcoin, even if Amazon doesn’t
An industry shakeout is needed to help the controversial currency, accepted to buy Richard Sherman T-shirts and grilled cheese sandwiches, gain wider use.
Seattle Times business reporter
You can’t use bitcoin at Amazon.com. But there are a handful of places Seattleites can spend the crypto-currency.
Take, for example, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s online store. There, the Legion of Boom member sells T-shirts with his likeness next to the words “Don’t you ever talk about me,” a quote that memorializes his now-famous post-NFC Championship game rant. You can pick up the shirt for $29.99, using credit cards, PayPal or bitcoin.
Sherman’s store — at www.richardsherman25.com — started taking bitcoin in December and has received 20 to 30 orders a month using the currency, according to Sherman’s agent, Jamie Fritz.
Sherman announced plans to accept bitcoin in a January Facebook post, calling it “the currency of the future.” Fritz said Sherman was simply trying to make purchasing products easier.
“The decision was based on supporting the fan-base choices to transact via the latest medium — not unlike PayPal or traditional credit cards,” Fritz said.
In its five-year life, bitcoin has largely been collected and traded by technologists intrigued by the potential for digital currency, libertarians keen to support a currency without government backing, and criminals eager to purchase contraband anonymously.
The future of the controversial and widely misunderstood currency has been questioned with the apparent collapse of the Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox. The exchange, once the biggest in the bitcoin universe, halted trading as reports surfaced that more than 744,000 bitcoins — worth around $380 million, or roughly 6 percent of the world’s bitcoins — had been stolen.
“As there is a lot of speculation regarding Mt Gox and its future, I would like to use this opportunity to reassure everyone that I am still in Japan, and working very hard with the support of different parties to find a solution to our recent issues,” Mt. Gox Chief Executive Mark Karpeles wrote in a note of the exchange’s website.
And while the note has done little to reassure bitcoin investors, the Seattle bitcoin community has taken the latest blemish to the currency in stride. Last fall, the FBI shut down Silk Road, a black market that sold narcotics and other illicit goods for bitcoin. Its alleged leader was arrested in a San Francisco library.
Last year, Bainbridge Island-based CoinLab got mired in lawsuits in a contract dispute with Mt. Gox.
And while the apparent collapse of Mt. Gox has rattled the bitcoin world, it might be just what the currency needs to evolve into something more mainstream, said Will O’Brien, the Seattle-based chief executive of BitGo, a Bay Area provider of security for bitcoins.
Owners of bitcoins access the currency with a single digital key. BitGo’s customers receive three keys and are required to use at least two to complete any transaction. Since the Mt. Gox news broke, daily BitGo sign-ups have doubled, according to O’Brien, something he takes as a sign of the industry maturing.
“We’re in those early innings of bitcoin,” O’Brien said. “We have to go through this shakeout period and get rid of the bad actors.”
The fear of theft, as well as the lack of understanding about how bitcoin works, will likely slow the currency’s acceptance. There are only a handful of merchants in Seattle that accept the currency, including the Cheese Wizards grilled-cheese sandwich truck.
Las Vegas-based Robocoin announced plans to open a bitcoin ATM in Seattle by the end of February. The company didn’t respond to emails Wednesday regarding the status of those plans.
With scant ways to spend bitcoin, and a lack of clarity about the currency, mainstream use seems distance. Amazon, for example, has no current plans to accept the currency. That’s because “it hasn’t seen significant interest from customers in bitcoin,” Amazon spokesman Craig Berman said.
Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: iamjaygreene