If you want a bitcoin, you have three ways to acquire it: You can buy it, you can receive it as payment, or you can — well, just go get it.
The first two methods are self-explanatory, and they’re the usual subjects of the debate around bitcoin: its value as an investment and as a currency. As for the third method, bitcoins are created through a process called mining, in which computer power (hashing power) is used to solve a puzzle in pursuit of a number called a nonce. In theory, these puzzles could be done with a pen and paper. They aren’t mathematically challenging, they just require a lot of number-crunching and guesswork.
So why buy a bitcoin for Monday morning’s price of roughly $43,000 when you can just solve one of these puzzles and get one on your own? To answer that question, it helps to think of the traits bitcoin shares not with other currencies or investments, but with something else — commodities.