One of the most popular memes on the cryptocurrency subreddit r/bitcoin, arguably the largest concentration of Bitcoin enthusiasts on the internet, depicts a cartoon coin riding a roller coaster with its hands waving wildly in the air. On days when Bitcoin is skyrocketing in price, the meme shows the rollercoaster launching straight upward, and on days when Bitcoin is crashing, the funny facsimile is seen enduring a near-vertical drop. This dual-sided internet joke has accompanied nearly every significant movement in Bitcoin’s price in recent years and is telling in its frequency.
Bitcoin is perpetually rising and falling in relative fiat value, and even early 2018’s 70% decline isn’t surprising, nor is it the worst ever witnessed. Even amidst the most sickening of freefalls, experienced traders remain unfazed, because they’ve been there before. Holding through a correction is almost a rite of passage for cryptocurrency investors, and the group’s most experienced veterans have endured more than their fair share over the years.
The early days of Bitcoin were its ‘Wild West’— a time when very few exchanges made trading possible, and when only the bravest of the brave dipped their toes in. Such conditions were all but starved of liquidity, and so when the price began rising from around $0.95, the incline and the following drop were some of the steepest ever recorded.
In mid-June 2011, Bitcoin’s price reached as high as $32.00 per coin before tumbling all the way to $2.00 in November. At a 94% decline, this crash still maintains its record and holds painful memories for early investors, though those who held strong are now counting their lucky stars (and wads of bills). Looking back, this double-digit all-time high seems low, but one must remember that there was a fraction of today’s volume and interest. Bitcoin was still a largely unknown thought experiment, and no one had any indication of its future. Accordingly, $32 seemed like a good time to take profit, especially after such a spike, and other traders began to capitulate.
The second significant crash happened just months after Bitcoin bottomed out at $2.00 per coin. Though the price had more than doubled from lows by the end of 2011, the market was still fearful, as it had watched the cryptocurrency fall from $32.00 only recently.
Starting the year at an optimistic $4.50, Bitcoin increased in January to over $7.00. However, dip buyers today should look to this time and take note, as it exemplifies an important fact: Bitcoin isn’t guaranteed to reach its previous all-time high before correcting once more. From around $7.40, it took a frightening 49% decline to just $3.80 in late January, shaking out some investors who had held through November’s debacle.
The period between early 2012 and 2013 was uneventful. Bitcoin gained steadily and began 2013 at a price of around $13.00, reaching as high as $17.00 in 2012. Early 2013 was a bullish phase for the cryptocurrency, as it pushed past its all-time high of $32.00, reaching $49.00 before a one-day minor correction back to $33.00.
Many new exchanges and traders, in addition to expanded media coverage helped Bitcoin recover quickly, and it put on gains at a feverish pace until April, where bulls finally capitulated at a price of $260.00, breaking well into the triple digits. An outage at the then most popular exchange, Mt. Gox, was also credited as impetus for the decline. Profit-taking turned into a full-on freefall down to $40.00, for a total loss of 83%…