You can now buy Bitcoin at 15 local grocery stores

Fifteen Coinstar machines in grocery stores in the Wilmington area that exchange cash for coins are now able to exchange the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. (Port City daily / Preston Lennon)

SOUTHEEASTERN NC –– Cape Fear area residents can now buy Bitcoin from local Harris Teeters or Food Lions.

Cryptocurrency company Coinme, which made some of the earliest bitcoin ATMs in the world, has expanded a partnership with a real-life coin exchange company to make bitcoin available for purchase in North Carolina.

Coinme is partnering with a company that operates real coin exchanges, Coinstar, which already has a network of vending machines that provide cash for coins in grocery stores across the state.

Armed with recent regulatory approval from the NC Office of the Commissioner of Banks, Coinme was licensed to rewire the Coinstar devices so they can make Bitcoin purchases.

Bitcoin can now be bought at 15 grocery stores in the Wilmington area. (See the specific locations at the end of this article.)

“We recently received a license from the North Carolina Financial Regulator,” said the company’s CEO, Neil Bergquist, in an interview. “Coinstar reached out to its retail partners and they see it as a great opportunity.”

Coinme started out in 2014 as a maker of bitcoin ATMs that enabled users to scan a QR code to move cryptocurrency to a digital wallet. Bergquist said Coinme built the world’s first licensed cryptocurrency ATM.

“By working with regulators from day one, we were able to create that element of trust that the industry really lacked,” he said.

The company got involved with Coinstar in 2019, riding the wave of increased interest in crypto that followed a price spike in late 2017. The platform of the Coinstar machines already in place is simpler than the standard coin buying process.

“A lot of people feel that you have to be a computer scientist to store digital assets,” said Bergquist.

His company’s technology requires users to create an account on their website, upload government identification, and then they’re ready to buy. Cash that is poured into the Coinstar machines is exchanged for cryptocurrency on a user’s Coinme account.

“We are one of the largest Bitcoin onramps in the world,” added Bergquist. “You can go to your local grocery store and in two clicks you have just bought bitcoin.”

“A peer-to-peer e-cash system”

The origin of Bitcoin started with a White paper published in October 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the currency’s mysterious founder who has never been identified. Nakamoto dreamed of a “decentralized” financial exchange without interference from banks or governments and offered direct software solutions that could achieve this goal.

The technology used by Bitcoin (BTC) and its newer counterparts enables people to send assets to one another over the internet – and record all movements in a public ledger made up of sequences of letters and numbers. Every action in the general ledger is irreversible, so the transactions cannot be manipulated. The so-called blockchain is operated by “miners” who use computer equipment to drive the process forward.

Blockchain hawks believe the technology could spark revolutions in industries beyond the financial sector. A company took advantage of data sharing capabilities to change the way doctors and patients share sensitive medical information; Another aims to enable voting via mobile phones.

Coinbase, an early cryptocurrency exchange that launched in 2012, was valued at around $ 100 billion when it went public in April 2021.

“Back then, many larger companies never wanted to deal with crypto, or at least that was the mindset,” Bergquist said.

During the 2017 winter vacation season, the price of BTC skyrocketed, hitting just under $ 20,000 a week before Christmas. It then took a devastating slump, but steadily increased in value in the years that followed.

PayPal added cryptocurrency to its exchanges last year, and online financial platforms like Venmo and Cashapp have also expanded into the crypto space. This mainstream adoption by sections of the private sector helped fuel a rally in BTC price that remained stable through mid-April 2021.

But in the last few months its critics have been making noise. Elon Musk has stepped into the fray a few times and announced that Stop about Tesla’s acceptance of BTC as an offer, and calling out the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining.

As of this week, the price of BTC has hovered in the middle of $ 30,000, up from its 2021 high of around $ 63,000 two months ago.

“The majority of the country knows Bitcoin and the digital currency, but very few people own them,” said Bergquist. “Once people know that there is a trustworthy, safe, easy, and foolproof way to buy Bitcoin, then we see that adoption increases dramatically from then on.”

List of stores containing Coinstar machines that can exchange bitcoin. (Courtesy Coinme)

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