Bitcoin spot vs. futures ETFs: Key differences explained

The Bitcoin spot ETF does not yet exist, with crypto companies proposing various concepts to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the years. However, a few companies have legitimized the Bitcoin futures ETF. 

Crypto companies have fought to legitimize a Bitcoin spot ETF in the United States for years, but the SEC has yet to give in despite its recent two allegedly “crypto-positive” chairmen. 

For instance, Jay Clayton, who was head of the SEC from May 4, 2017, to December 23, 2020, is a fan of Bitcoin as a store of value. However, no proposal convinced Clayton that a Bitcoin ETF of any kind was ready. Clayton’s successor, Gary Gensler, approved ProShares’ BITO.

Other ETF proposals, including those from Valkyrie and Van Eck, have also seen approval. That said, one company, Grayscale, might be the first to implement a Bitcoin spot ETF.

Grayscale, which holds the world’s only SEC-approved, publicly-traded Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), proposed its Bitcoin spot ETF to the SEC in 2016. The group shortly withdrew its application in 2017 due to a stalemate in the conversation.

As of March 2022, Grayscale remains committed to converting GBTC to the world’s first Bitcoin spot ETF, even threatening to sue the SEC if its latest attempts don’t go through. In opposition, the SEC claims that market manipulation is its largest holdup to a Bitcoin spot ETF approval.