According to a report by CCN based on clearing statistics by the London bullion market (LBMA), the global gold over-the-counter (OTC) market is on pace to settle about $46 billion for 2018. So far this year, the industry has settled less than $30 billion each month. By contrast, the bitcoin market has already processed close to double that, with $848 billion settled so far in 2018 according to Coin Metrics and cryptocurrency data analyst Nic Carter. If this pace keeps up, the world's leading digital currency by market cap could settle $1.38 trillion by the end of the year. All of this has taken place in spite of the fact that bitcoin's value has slumped significantly since the beginning of 2018.

LBMA a Major Player

LBMA accounts for more than 70% of the global gold OTC volume. Nonetheless, bitcoin has already settled more value over the first two-thirds of the year than the predicted settlement of the entire gold market for 2018.

As Carter explained, his estimation is based on the London OTC market for gold representing 70% of global volumes. Based on LBMA clearing statistics, which Carter has used to estimate the "total net volume of regulated gold settlement at $446 billion for 2018." He adds that, conservatively, "bitcoin has settled $848 billion this year, and is on track to settle $1.38 trillion. Bitcoin, it appears, has quietly surpassed the OTC gold market in settlement volumes."

Other Digital Currencies Remain a Mystery

Carter's comparison did not include other major players in the digital token world, including ethereum, ripple, litecoin, or bitcoin cash. However, in at least some of these cases it's likely that bitcoin is not alone in having surpassed gold settlement. For instance, ethereum settles about twice as many transactions on a daily basis than BTC. However, because the transactions tend to be smaller than bitcoin's, it's difficult to say exactly how ETH compares to gold in this way.

One of the major questions, given this information, is why bitcoin has still struggled to reclaim its record high values from late in 2017. Certainly, there are many factors, including reticence on the part of the SEC, sluggishness in mainstream payment adoption, and more. Nonetheless, this data proves that bitcoin has developed an enthusiastic and active group of participating investors.

Investing in cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings ("ICOs") is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns bitcoin and ripple.