A Slovakian bitcoin ATM operator wants to set the record straight on the topic of Europe's first bitcoin ATM.
That title is currently claimed by a machine installed in the Helsinki Central railway station in Finland. There has also been considerable media hype around a Swedish machine that was touted as the continent's pioneering ATM dealing in the digital currency.
But Marian Jancuska, who operates the ATM in Bratislava, Slovakia's capital city, says neither Scandinavian country can claim the honour, because his machine was installed before either one. He said:
"I am glad bitcoin ATMs are growing in momentum [in Europe]. But I would like to set things straight."
Jancuska's ATM was 'permanently' installed in downtown Bratislava on 8th December, six days before the Finnish ATM was set up. The Bratislava ATM is mounted on a metal stand that's bolted to the wall and floor. It's located near the entrance of a branch of a well-known restaurant chain called The Pub.
Because bitcoin ATMs are often operated on a temporary basis or as demonstration units during events, it's useful to distinguish between those uses of an ATM with a permanent installation, where the machine can be expected to be located for the foreseeable future.
CoinDesk earlier reported on Finnish exchange Bittiraha's claim that it had installed Europe's first permanent bitcoin ATM on 16th Dec. The machine is located inside a branch of a popular record store chain in the heavily trafficked Helsinki Central railway station.
Bratislava ATM details
Jancuska's ATM is a Lamassu unit, so it only converts fiat currency to bitcoin and not the other way around. Jancuska currently charges a 3% fee per transaction, although he says he is working to reduce it to 1%.
The wallet linked to Jancuska's ATM has recorded 290 transactions to date. It has received 82.74 BTC (about $75,000) and has a current balance of about 7.46 BTC (about $6,771).
Jancuska says he only knows his ATM customers by their wallet addresses, since using the ATM doesn't require handing over any identity information, and he prefers to keep it that way.
However he said interest in bitcoin in Slovakia appears to have spread from technology professionals and enthusiasts to the mainstream, aided by interest in the topic from local media. Jancuska says he's happy with the ATM's current location, although he would consider making it available for one-off events as well.
Slovakia's bitcoin scene
Bratislava has an active bitcoin community, according to Jancuska. CoinDesk reported on the Bratislava Subway franchise that laid claim to being the first franchised outlet of the sandwich chain to accept bitcoin. That Subway outlet is owned by Martin Petrus, who also runs an exchange in Slovakia.
Jancuska's ATM made an appearance at Petrus' Subway for two weeks. The pair met when Jancuska did a demo of the ATM at ProgressBar, a popular Bratislava hackerspace. Jancuska said:
"[Martin Petrus] suggested I place the ATM in his restaurant until it was ready for installation downtown. I liked the idea so the ATM spent about two weeks at Subway. It became a unique place where you could both get bitcoins and spend them."
Despite Slovakia's evident interest in bitcoin adoption, the international media appears to have been slow to pick up on stories from the eastern European country. The Bratislava ATM's installation, for example, was overshadowed in the media by announcements from Sweden and Finland, for example.
Even Petrus' move to accept bitcoin at his Subway franchise came to light belatedly, after other outlets of the global sandwich chain were hailed for being the first to adopt bitcoin.
"Despite [bitcoin] activity happening here, its not reported [by] international media," Jancuska said.
Jancuska operates his ATM and runs his technology consultancy, called 0011. The 35-year-old who hails from eastern Slovakia says mainly works with financial institutions in his capacity as a consultant.
Jancuska bought his first bitcoin fractions in early 2012. He subsequently purchased whole bitcoins from Mike Gogulski, who is noted for being one of a small number of Americans who have renounced their citizenship to become stateless. Gogulski is also a software developer and bitcoin enthusiast who lives in Bratislava.
Jancuska paid Lamassu 50 BTC (nearly $50,000 at today's rate) for his machine, a move that he says he doesn't regret. For Jancuska, with Bratislava's bitcoin ATM firmly located in the annals of the cryptocurrency's history, there is little debate about the machine's future:
"The future of the ATM in Bratislava should be quite clear — it should simply provide the service it's meant for." He added, "I still need to add some signs and stickers to it."
Bratislava image via Shutterstock