eBay's main US site has introduced a category for 'Virtual Currency', with listings for dozens of bitcoin and altcoin-related activities – including shares in mining operations.
Although eBay is still not accepting bitcoin as an official payment, any recognition of the currency is significant since eBay is the parent company of PayPal, the payments firm long earmarked for disruption by many bitcoin fans.
The popular online auction site and marketplace quietly included the category in its 'Category Changes' list for April under 'Coins and Paper Money'.
At press time there were multiple entries for bitcoin and altcoin trades, Mining Hardware, and 'Mining Contracts', where investors are invited to buy per-gigahash shares in existing and proposed cryptocurrency mining operations. Search results revealed hundreds of mining-related listings not yet categorized.
One listing selling dogecoins had in its description:
"This will be shipped via USPS, UPS, FedEX, or the shipping method of your choice. Note to eBay: these are NOT being emailed."
There are, however, other listings promising the coins will be sent electronically. The 'Mining Hardware' and 'Mining Contracts' subcategories also have some currency sales listed with Auction and 'Buy it Now' options.
This is not permitted on eBay's UK site, which has had a 'Virtual Currency' category since February but stipulates listings must be classified ads.
eBay has a colorful history with digital currencies, appearing often in 'Will they or won't they?' stories throughout bitcoin's recent history.
A filing to the US Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) in early 2014 referred to bitcoin as a 'potential competitor' to PayPal, which usually charges a 2-3% fee on transactions it processes.
eBay has also applied for patents in the last few months that suggest an interest in digital currency exchange and other payment 'tokens'.
Reactions to the new 'Virtual Currency' category on reddit were a mixture of optimistic and wary, with many claiming the company has added it before, only to remove it at a later stage. This could have been due to eBay's overseas subsidiary sites, like the UK, adding the listing before the US one.
PayPal has also appeared to toy with the idea of accepting bitcoin in some form. President president David Marcus remarked in an April 2013 interview that he found digital currencies "truly fascinating" and added "We're kind of thinking about it".
eBay president John Donohoe has also mused on the possibility of PayPal integrating bitcoin "one day" in interviews, giving no commitment beyond saying "we're looking at bitcoin closely".
There may also be concerns at the number of bitcoin mining share listings on eBay. Many of these deals have ended in tears as hardware manufacturers fail to deliver on time, or under-deliver on the kinds of profits investors were expecting due to the exponential increase in the network's hashing speed requirements.
The sheer number of listings under the category could create a potential customer relations nightmare for eBay, should buyers find themselves dissatisfied with purchases, scammed outright, or have refund claims disputed.
Even the Virtual Currency page itself has a large banner advertising the "eBay Money Back Guarantee – Get the item you ordered or get your money back".
Trading digital currencies themselves on eBay could also be a minefield, exposing sellers to credit card chargebacks and PayPal claims after the coins have changed hands.
New eBay logo image via Shutterstock