The exponential growth of the micropayments industry and the expansion of social networks in the last few years have produced the necessary conditions for the birth and growing importance of a distinct object that is fairly new to many disciplines: virtual currencies. The present work is a pioneering study in this field, in which we attempt to survey the main issues and challenges posed to Economic Theory and to the design and implementation of economic policy. Particularly, we are interested in the implications that virtual currencies may have for: 1) The economic principles associated with voluntary holdings of different kinds of money; 2) The rate-of-return dominance by some currencies that may coexist with currencies offering lower real returns; and 3) The state-of-the-art Monetary Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium models with micro-foundations. We believe that virtual currencies share some important features of both fiat currencies—whose value is mainly determined by the issuer’s reputation and the people’s beliefs regarding its future acceptability in exchange for goods or services—and commodity currencies, with intrinsic value. However, virtual currencies are typically issued by private agents, rather than by governments, and thus regulation and appropriate monitoring arise as potential problems that we may have to deal with in the near future.
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