If someone had given you a bitcoin each time you heard that Bitcoin was dead, you'd have... well, you'd have a lot of bitcoins. One website has been keeping track of media reports of Bitcoin's demise and puts the current count at 319.

But maybe this time they're right. The cryptocurrency has, after all, been in decline all year. The heady days of $20,000 now feel years away and there's little sign that they're going to come back soon. 

The critics would say that this time it's the end for sure. They're not wrong... they're just wrong about what's ending. 

Bitcoin's history is one long series of crashes and recoveries. In sixteen days between January 12, 2012 and January 27, 2012 Bitcoin lost nearly half its value, declining from $7.38 to $3.80.

Later that year, over just three days in August, it lost 57 percent, falling from $16.41 to $7.10. In April 2013, another three days sent bitcoin crashing from $259.34 to just $45, an 83 percent decline. Even that fall was beaten between the end of November 2013 that year and mid-January 2015 when the price of bitcoin fell 87 percent from $1,163 to just $152.40 over 411 days. 

Each of those falls can usually be connected to an event that weakened confidence in the coin and prompted a sell-off: hacks such as the break-in that killed off Mt. Gox; government regulations like China's prohibition on the use of Bitcoin by financial institutions; the recent investigations into price manipulation at the end of 2017. And that's without considering the ability of whales and mining conglomerates to move the price of an asset that still has a comparatively low volume. 

It's certainly true that this time feels different. It's notable that each new crash starts from a position much higher than the last bottom. Bitcoin might have fallen 57 percent over three days in August 2012 but it started more than four times higher than it had reached less than three months earlier--and it finished its recovery with a 100 percent profit for holders who had bought at that bottom. Bitcoin has always been volatile, which means that buyers who invested during a crash have enjoyed high profits during the rise.

The difference now is that the volatility is ending. At the start of the year, as Bitcoin collapsed from its $19,000 high, volatility was as high as 8.19 percent. It remained over 7.5 percent for the first three months of 2018 before beginning a long decline, reaching as low as 2.5 percent in mid-June. The volatility has since risen slightly but the price of Bitcoin is still rising and falling at less than half the rate at which it moved at the start of the year.

That relative stability means that Bitcoin is getting better at holding value. It's coming closer to functioning as a real currency. At that point, demand for the coin will rise again, not just as an asset but as a real commercial tool. The current price decline isn't killing Bitcoin. It's giving it a whole new life.

Published on: Jul 12, 2018