When stores of value compete against each other, it is the specific attributes that make a good store of value that allows one to out-compete another at the margin and increase demand for it over time. While many goods have been used as stores of value or “proto-money”, certain attributes emerged that were particularly demanded and allowed goods with these attributes to out-compete others. An ideal store of value will be:
- Durable: the good must not be perishable or easily destroyed. Thus wheat is not an ideal store of value
- Portable: the good must be easy to transport and store, making it possible to secure it against loss or theft and allowing it to facilitate long-distance trade. A cow is thus less ideal than a gold bracelet.
- Fungible: one specimen of the good should be interchangeable with another of equal quantity. Without fungibility, the coincidence of wants problem remains unsolved. Thus gold is better than diamonds, which are irregular in shape and quality.
- Verifiable: the good must be easy to quickly identify and verify as authentic. Easy verification increases the confidence of its recipient in trade and increases the likelihood a trade will be consummated.
- Divisible: the good must be easy to subdivide. While this attribute was less important in early societies where trade was infrequent, it became more important as trade flourished and the quantities exchanged became smaller and more precise.
- Scarce: As Nick Szabo termed it, a monetary good must have “unforgeable costliness”. In other words, the good must not be abundant or easy to either obtain or produce in quantity. Scarcity is perhaps the most important attribute of a store of value as it taps into the innate human desire to collect that which is rare. It is the source of the original value of the store of value.
- Established history: the longer the good is perceived to have been valuable by society, the greater its appeal as a store of value. A long-established store of value will be hard to displace by a new upstart except by force of conquest or if the arriviste is endowed with a significant advantage among the other attributes listed above.
- Censorship-resistant: a new attribute, which has become increasingly important in our modern, digital society with pervasive surveillance, is censorship-resistance. That is, how difficult is it for an external party such as a corporation or state to prevent the owner of the good from keeping and using it. Goods that are censorship-resistant are ideal to those living under regimes that are trying to enforce capital controls or to outlaw various forms of peaceful trade.