Behind the Doritos and Herr’s potato chips inside a Sunoco in East Lampeter Township is a mysterious machine.
It resembles an ordinary ATM, but those who try to use it to withdraw money from their bank account won’t have much luck.
“I don’t know nothing about it, to be honest,” store manager Bill Singh said while standing behind the register Thursday morning. Singh only knows that he gets $200 a month to house the machine, which sits sandwiched between two gaming terminals near the store’s entrance.
It’s a Bitcoin ATM — the only one in Lancaster County, according to the website Coin ATM Radar. And it’s the latest sign that cryptocurrency, despite its recent downfall, hasn’t gone away just yet.
Cryptocurrencies — such as Bitcoin, litecoin and ethereum — exploded in popularity in late 2017 and early 2018, as people hoping to get rich quick invested in the digital currency. But this year, the crypto bubble popped.
According to Bitcoin.com, the price of Bitcoin, which in December 2017 peaked at $19,347, is, as of Thursday afternoon, $3,669. Litecoin, which was $358 a coin, is $28. Ethereum, $1,385 in January, is $119.
The remnants of the Bitcoin boom are now scattered around the nation in the form of ATMs, which can be used to buy and sell Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin ATM Radar says there are more than 4,100 such machines nationwide.
What is a Bitcoin? A decentralized, digital token used for purchasing items, trading or investing.
How do I buy it? Either through a Bitcoin ATM or an online cryptocurrency portfolio manager such as Coinbase.
Where can I find a Bitcoin ATM? Through an online interactive map managed by Coin ATM Radar.
What are the drawbacks? Cryptocurrency prices are highly volatile. Similar to a stock, there is a wide risk-reward ratio.
Lancaster’s sole Bitcoin ATM, which is owned by a company called Black Frog Blockchain Ventures LLC, allows users to purchase Bitcoins and litecoins. According to Singh, it hasn’t been used much since it arrived three months ago.
“It’s not that busy,” he said, adding that perhaps “it’s too new here in Lancaster.”
Singh said he’s actually trying to get rid of it, as it takes up too much space.
Afra Croney, a regular customer at Sunoco, said she’s never used the machine personally, but she once helped a woman in her 60s make a purchase.
The woman, Croney said, was struggling to use the code sent by her husband, who was working overseas at the time. She eventually asked Croney for help.
On the side of the ATM is a two-sided piece of paper with instructions, which the woman “couldn’t seem to understand,” Croney said.
Success! An email has been sent with a link to confirm list signup.
Error! There was an error processing your request.
The experience intrigued Croney to perhaps invest in Bitcoin.
“I might try to invest,” she said. “I gotta find out more details as to what these coins are.”
So what are they? The easy answer: It’s complicated.
Even the creator of Bitcoin is a mystery, although it’s believed to be a man named Satoshi Nakamoto.
A Bitcoin, which is the most popular form of cryptocurrency, is a digital token that users can send electronically to someone else anywhere in the world. They can do so anonymously, because, unlike a bank, there is no central authority over Bitcoin.
That can lead to trouble, as some users have paid for illegal drugs using Bitcoin through the dark web. Most purchases, however, are used for trading or other legal purposes.