Government Resistance Drives Off-the-Books, Face-to-Face Bitcoin Trades

Black markets? You don't say.


On a damp Thursday night in July, a half-dozen men gather on the steps of San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens, just across from St. Patrick Church on Mission Street. They dress down, mostly wearing the jeans and t-shirts uniform of Bay Area programmers. As the sun sets, they're trading currency in the fog, selling silver and cash for Bitcoins and other crypto-currencies. Every now and then a new trader wanders by, asking, "Buttonwood?"

Welcome to the quickest, most private way to buy the internet's most successful digital currency: in-person and face-to-face. …

These aren't big value transactions, but the Buttonwood crew aren't big-time traders. They're the enthusiasts and the curious, dipping their toes in the world of crypto currencies. They want to meet other like-minded people and trade. Copley tells me he'd rather do everything online, but he's had his online payments reversed by the banks. Meeting face-to-face and leaving with cash (or Bitcoins) in hand is safer. "The easiest and most profitable are the online [trades], however, they're also the most risky," he says.