Did Bitcoin Just Burst? How It Compares to History’s Big Bubbles

Bitcoin’s recent wobbles have given fresh urgency to a question that’s gripped market observers for much of the past year: Will the cryptocurrency go down as one of history’s most infamous bubbles, alongside tulipmania and the dot-com craze?

The magnitude of Bitcoin’s boom (before it lost as much as 50 percent from its Dec. 18 high) suggests investors have reason to be worried.

As the chart shows, the cryptocurrency’s nearly 60-fold increase during the past three years was truly extraordinary.

It dwarfed the Nasdaq Composite Index’s gain during the headiest days of the 1990s. Going further back, it comfortably outstripped the Mississippi and South Sea bubbles of the 1700s. It even topped the Dutch tulipmania of the 1630s, though that last comparison should be taken with a grain of salt given the scarcity of recorded tulip values. (The chart includes prices for just one varietal; consistent post-peak figures were unavailable.)

Bulls say that Bitcoin’s boom is far from over, and that there’s more to analyzing a market than just measuring price gains. While the recent tumble has alarmed some investors, the cryptocurrency has bounced back from several previous swoons exceeding 50 percent. If Bitcoin did become a widely-accepted form of digital gold, as predicted by Cameron Winklevoss of Facebook fame, it could have a lot further to surge…

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