Here is a very natural idea: an entity creates a new virtual currency with the following properties:

  • Only that entity has the capability to issue new quantities of that currency
  • That entity makes some type of legally binding promise to always buy and sell units of that currency at prices fixed to some underlying commodity. For example, it will always sell for 1.00 USD / unit and buy for 0.99 EUR/ unit.
  • Transactions in the virtual currency are transacted in a Bitcoin-style network that is not centralized and not controlled by the issuer.

This is, of course, a very old and often implemented idea. Paper notes were originally issued and thought of as government backed, tradable IOUs. And gold-backed paper currency is pretty much what I've described here. This is the digital, virtualized variant of a very old idea.

This idea is alluded to here on the Contracts page in the BTC wiki. It's called EURcoins on that page.

My question:

Are there any existing or serious proposals for alternative virtual currencies backed by commodities?

Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to this setup. I'm not asking for a recital of disadvantages. If you are wondering, I see the main advantage of such a proposal as the ability to "send" the underlying commodity point-to-point with relatively low transaction costs. For example, one could pay the equivalent of USD while bypassing the existing credit card and debit payment systems in the US. Whether this is something people really want to do is another question altogether.

4 Answers 4


This is basically how every asset in Ripple works, other than XRP.

Ripple permits anyone to create an asset and back it in any way that they choose. Others can declare their willingness to accept specific assets in payment. And Ripple implements distributed order books, payment pathfinding, and atomic multi-asset transactions to implement transfers of value.


Look at the answer to What protocols are built on top of Bitcoin that contains a picture? This picture is not perfect, a work in progress... David Schartz's point is that Ripple's contractual tentacles could even reach down to any commodity with a binding contract, not just specie foundation of Exter's Pyramid. (Wondering if Peter Schiff will comprehend this perspective???)

The relationship between P2P crypto currencies should be driven by free market pressures based heavily upon the trust in those crypto payment system technologies, and the availability of the associated payment services to meet consumer transaction needs in a timely, convenient and safe fashion.


To a certain extent, the Ven could be seen as an "asset-backed" currency, even though it's closed source and not crypto-powered, as far as I know. Its creator back it with a basket of currencies plus carbon futures. Sounds nice, except they're not used outside of their "Ven Pavillions" and it's more like a one way street: once bought, you cannot easily get your dollars/euros back - though there are a number of dealers accepting them in exchange of their products and services, so it's more a coin designed specifically to be spent rather than traded per-se.


SimpleFund does this. It's a novel combination of virtual commodity, backed by real value, and grows in three ways. http://simplefund.tumblr.com/post/81397365510/better-than-bitcoin

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