The thing is, the first users didn't get all the first ones.
Bitcoin was in Slashdot more than two years ago. It is open source, anyone could download the software and mine on their CPU.
Mt. Gox has been open for even longer. Anyone, anywhere in the world could and still can buy on the exchanges. There's no members-only trading.
If you bought after Slashdot you would have paid around a dime or less. But Slashdot readers called it a ponzi scam and didn't take it seriously.
You could have bought thousands of bitcoins at a dollar when Steve Gibson talked about it in February 2011. But Leo poo-pooh'd it "Not government issued" he balked.
Then again, you could have bought bitcoins at $30 after the July 2011 bubble, and today be down by 66% yet and still be bitter.
That's the nature of speculation. Nobody knows if bitcoin will increase or decrease in value. But it definitely isn't a ponzi. Ponzi means paying dividends to early investors, using funds from later investors. Everyone who held bitcoins yesterday when they were $9.20 could have sold today at $11. Everyone, not just the early miners.
Today, just like a year ago, mining will generate bitcoins at a little more than the cost of electricity to generate them. If you want bitcoins, then mine, buy, or stand on the sidelines.
Just don't bitch when it hits $100.
If I were designing a Ponzi scheme intending to defraud people, I wouldn't base it on a 100% transparent network of open source software using public domain crypto functions, where the wealth creation is by design not only randomly allocated, but mathematically capped to a static trickle rate.
It's like the most badly designed Ponzi scheme ever.
A Ponzi scheme is when you offer an interest bearing or dividend paying investment, and you have to use the money obtained from new people buying into your investment to pay out the interest or dividends.
That's a very clear definition, and Bitcoin obviously does not fit - and it wouldn't fit the definition even if Bitcoin weren't based on a transparent protocol and open source implementations.
In the last 6 months, I've never held onto a bitcoin for more than about 30 minutes. Strictly use them for their utility as a currency.
But because retailers will only hold onto them for probably seconds, using BTC as a transfer medium won't significantly affect the price: average selling and buying will be the same.
The only way BTC can go up is if more people hold on to more of them (reducing the available money supply), which when they are rising happens more, causing a bubble.
As far as the cost of using them, while it is non-zero, some of us just want to do our part in establishing a currency and surrounding ecosystem that is free from gov't, corporate, and other meddling. Thus we accept the small hit in price.
I mean, the point is that it's a currency. It's designed to be a currency which isn't governed by any one person or group of people (except those that created it, but at that point it becomes governed by math and logic, not the whims of the creators).