Bitcoin's Big Surprise: it Hasn't Crashed or Exploded

Jacob Harper  |

Even after entering the mainstream consciousness some six months ago, bitcoin is still fairly polarizing, at least in the investment community. On one hand, you had the establishment Paul Krugman types of the world – economists that decried bitcoin as a mere Ponzi scheme for the digital age, one due to break down at any second. Or, as Krugman put it in his Dec 28 op-ed, “Bitcoin is Evil.”

On the other, you had the new order Winklevoss Twins and their ilk, tech gurus who saw in bitcoin the future of money – and a vehicle for making early adopters rich, rich, rich. As Cameron Winklevoss predicted during bitcoin’s big December boom, “Bitcoin is a $400 billion dollar market cap, so $40,000 a coin, but I believe it could be much larger. When this will happen, if it happens, it will probably happen much faster than anyone imagines.”

After topping out around $1,150 a bitcoin on Dec 4, the price dipped, then flattened around the $850 range for most of January. The Krugmen saw an impending crash; the Winklevii a hiccup before the run-up. But neither has really happed.

According to pricing index Coindesk, as of April 4 bitcoin stands at $444.64, down 40 percent on the year and about 62 percent from its all-time high. Bitcoin hasn’t crashed to zero, it hasn’t gone to an absurd $40,000 a coin. It has just kind of… withered.

While this price drop might seem a victory for the naysayers, few of them predicted that bitcoin’s price sink would happen so damned gradually, while still retaining a massive year-over-year gain.

And really, there’s no saying that bitcoin couldn’t recover, at least marginally. But far from the Winklevoss “to the moon” type mega-optimism, any rise, should it happen, looks to be wholly undramatic as well. In short, bitcoin looks to experience neither a bust or a boom. It looks to just, well, be.

To be sure, the price is dropping, and as the world’s powers continue to regulate it as a commodity and impose taxes on trading bitcoin, there’s little to suggest that it will once again experience a sudden unrestrained price pop. But bitcoin’s clearly got enough fervent backers at this point who will hold through just about anything to mitigate an out-and-out panic and crash.

It’s a fairly small sample size to work with. But if movement continues as such, the only thing we can say for certain is that, whether up or down, bitcoin’s price performance will surprise the extremes of the debate by not being very extreme at all.

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