Last April, eight months before the value of Bitcoin peaked, Ana Popovic finally did what a friend of hers had been urging her to do for months: invest in Bitcoins.
For around $350, she bought 0.25 Bitcoins. At that time, she recalls that one Bitcoin was worth between $1,800 and $2,000.
Back then she could not have imagined that only months later, by December 2017, the value of the virtual crypto-currency would have soared to $20,000.
Despite not knowing that, she wanted to be on the safe side and decided not to trade with it.
“I bought it and I put it aside. Trading with Bitcoins is not that simple, and I would have to learn how to do it,” she recalls.
“I don’t have time for that,” the PhD candidate at Belgrade University’s Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy told BIRN.
According to ECD, a Belgrade-based company that specialises in crypto-currencies, tens of thousands of people in Serbia are now involved in this field.
A sharp rise in the number of crypto-currency users in Serbia has been especially noticeable since 2016, ECD told BIRN.
While there are several other crypto-currencies around, such as Litecoin or Ethereum, Bitcoin remains the most popular, both in Serbia and the world – especially since its value throughout 2017 rose from $1,000 US to $20,000. Its current value is down to around $9, 9000 for one Bitcoin.
The enormous rise in its value last year significantly increased the number of users all over the world, Marko Matanovic, a business developer with ECD, said.
“At the beginning of 2017, around 4 million people worldwide owned some of the crypto-currencies. At the moment, we are talking about 40 to 50 million,” he told BIRN.
One Bitcoin advocate in the Balkans is the unrecognized self-proclaimed statelet between Serbia and Croatia called Liberland.
Parked in the river Danube, it has its own Bitcoin Embassy and accepts donations in this virtual currency.
However, many fears and concerns surround the crypto-currencies, as there is no central authority to regulate them or their flow.
Bitcoin fever has prompted many national banks on the Balkans to advise people to be cautious.