Bitcoin's Price History: A Roller Coaster Ride from 2009 to 2023
Take a ride on the Bitcoin roller coaster! From its humble beginnings in 2009 to the chaos of exchange meltdowns of today, discover the major price moves and news that have shaped Bitcoin's history.
2009: The Birth of BitcoinBitcoin was originally worth next to nothing. The transaction that first gave Bitcoin monetary value was in October 2009, when Finnish computer science student Martti Malmi, known online as Sirius, sold 5,050 coins for $5.02, giving each bitcoin a value of $0.0009 each. The exchange took place on PayPal.
2010: The First Bitcoin Bubble
Bitcoin's adoption started to pick up steam in 2010. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) accepted bitcoin as donations for a couple of months in 2010. Due to lack of legal precedent surrounding virtual currencies this arrangement was quickly rescinded, though this was later reversed in 2013 when the EFF began accepting bitcoin again.
On February 9th, 2010, BTC reached a value of USD$1.00 for the first time ever. A few months later, in June, the price of one bitcoin hit $10, then $30 on Mt. Gox, the largest Bitcoin exchange at the time. This represented a 100x appreciation since the beginning of the year, when the price of Bitcoin hovered around $0.30.
I'll pay 10,000 bitcoins for a couple of pizzas.. like maybe 2 large ones so I have some left over for the next day. I like having left over pizza to nibble on later. You can make the pizza yourself and bring it to my house or order it for me from a delivery place, but what I'm aiming for is getting food delivered in exchange for bitcoins where I don't have to order or prepare it myself, kind of like ordering a 'breakfast platter' at a hotel or something, they just bring you something to eat and you're happy!
I like things like onions, peppers, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, pepperoni, etc.. just standard stuff no weird fish topping or anything like that. I also like regular cheese pizzas which may be cheaper to prepare or otherwise acquire.
If you're interested please let me know and we can work out a deal.
The trade was completed on May 22nd, 2010 by another forum user named jercos who agreed to send laszlo two pizzas from Papa John's for 10,000 BTC. At the time of the transaction, those bitcoins were worth about $41. Today, they would be worth over $280 million.
If you want to read more about the history of Bitcoin Pizza Day and its significance, check out our blog.
2011: The Rise and Fall of Mt. Gox
Bitcoin's price rose again on April 13th, 2011 from $1 to a peak of $29.60 by June 7th, 2011, a gain of 2,960% within three months. This was partly fueled by the growing popularity of Silk Road, an online marketplace that allowed users to buy and sell illegal goods and services using Bitcoin as a payment method.
However, Bitcoin also faced its first major security breach in June 2011 when a hacker gained access to Mt. Gox's database and stole over 2,000 BTC from several accounts. The hacker also tried to sell all the stolen bitcoins at once on Mt. Gox's platform, causing the price to drop from $17.51 to $0.01 within minutes before the exchange suspended trading.
Mt. Gox would recover from this incident and continue to dominate the Bitcoin market until February 2014 when it announced that it had lost over 850,000 BTC (worth about $450 million at the time) due to hacking or theft. Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy shortly after and became a cautionary tale in the world of cryptocurrencies.
2013: The Cyprus Banking Crisis and Bitcoin's Big Moment (…or Moments)
The price of Bitcoin saw a sharp increase in 2013 as a result of the Cyprus banking crisis. In March 2013, the Cypriot government announced a controversial plan to seize a portion of all uninsured deposits in the country's two largest banks to help fund a bailout. This move led to widespread fear and uncertainty in the global financial markets, causing many investors to turn to Bitcoin as a safe haven.
In response, Bitcoin's price skyrocketed from around $13 in January to an all-time high of $1,242 by November. Bitcoin's market capitalization surpassed $10 billion for the first time, briefly exceeding that of major companies like Western Union and Twitter.
Bitcoin's First Major Fork and Increased Regulatory Scrutiny
2013 was not only notable for the Cyprus banking crisis, but also for several other key events that shaped the course of Bitcoin's history. It was a year marked by rapid growth, increased media attention, and the emergence of the first significant regulatory challenges.
Bitcoin's First Major Fork: The Birth of Bitcoin Cash
In August 2013, Bitcoin experienced its first major fork, which led to the creation of a new cryptocurrency called Bitcoin Cash (BCH). This split was the result of a long-standing debate within the Bitcoin community over the best way to scale the network and increase transaction throughput. Supporters of Bitcoin Cash believed that increasing the block size limit from 1 MB to 8 MB would allow for more transactions per block, ultimately reducing fees and wait times.
Those opposed to the fork, however, argued that such a change would lead to centralization, as larger blocks would require more computing power to mine, potentially pricing out smaller miners. In the end, the fork occurred, and Bitcoin Cash was born, with the original Bitcoin chain maintaining its 1 MB block size limit.
The Silk Road Takedown and Increased Regulatory Scrutiny
In October 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shut down Silk Road, an infamous online black market that used Bitcoin as its primary payment method. The operation led to the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, the site's founder, and the confiscation of around 26,000 BTC (worth about $3.6 million at the time). The takedown of Silk Road drew significant media attention, putting Bitcoin in the spotlight and raising concerns about its potential use in illegal activities.
In response to these concerns, several governments around the world began to take a closer look at Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In November 2013, the U.S. Senate held its first hearing on the subject, featuring testimony from high-ranking officials, including representatives from the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The hearing, titled "Beyond Silk Road: Potential Risks, Threats, and Promises of Virtual Currencies," highlighted the need for a regulatory framework to address the unique challenges posed by cryptocurrencies.
The Rise of China and the Subsequent Crackdown
China played a significant role in Bitcoin's growth in 2013, as the country saw a surge in interest and investment in the cryptocurrency. A large portion of Bitcoin's trading volume and mining power was concentrated in China, driven by factors such as low electricity costs and a high demand for alternative investment options.
However, this rapid growth also attracted the attention of Chinese regulators. In December 2013, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) issued a notice that prohibited financial institutions from handling Bitcoin transactions, dealing a major blow to the country's burgeoning cryptocurrency market. The announcement caused Bitcoin's price to plummet by over 30%, highlighting the vulnerability of the market to regulatory interventions.
In summary, 2013 was a pivotal year for Bitcoin, characterized by rapid growth, increased media attention, and the emergence of significant regulatory challenges. The events of this year would lay the groundwork for the ongoing debate over the role of cryptocurrencies in the global financial system and the need for a comprehensive regulatory framework to address their unique characteristics.
2017: The ICO Boom and the Great Crypto Bubble
The year 2017 saw an unprecedented surge in the number of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), as thousands of blockchain-based projects sought to capitalize on the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies. ICOs emerged as an attractive fundraising mechanism for these projects, allowing them to bypass traditional venture capital funding and attract a global pool of investors.
During an ICO, projects would issue their own tokens, which investors could purchase using established cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. In many cases, these tokens granted holders access to the project's platform or services, or they were promised to appreciate in value as the project gained traction.
This innovative approach to fundraising, coupled with the meteoric rise of Bitcoin and Ethereum, fueled a massive bull run in the crypto markets. Throughout 2017, investors flocked to ICOs in search of the next "big thing" in the cryptocurrency space, hoping to replicate the extraordinary returns of early Bitcoin and Ethereum adopters.
As a result, Bitcoin's price skyrocketed from around $1,000 in January 2017 to an all-time high of nearly $20,000 in December. The total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies reached a staggering $830 billion by the beginning of 2018.
The Dark Side of the ICO Boom: Scams, Fraud, and Regulatory Crackdowns
Unfortunately, the ICO boom also attracted a significant number of scams, fraudulent projects, and unscrupulous actors looking to cash in on the investor frenzy. Many ICOs were launched with little more than a white paper and a flashy website, often making unrealistic promises about the potential returns on investment.
This lack of transparency and accountability, combined with the largely unregulated nature of the ICO market, made it fertile ground for fraud and manipulation. It is estimated that more than 80% of ICOs launched in 2017 were either outright scams or failed projects.
Recognizing the potential risks associated with this new fundraising model, authorities around the world began to take action. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued several warnings about the risks of investing in ICOs and started cracking down on projects that were deemed to be offering unregistered securities. Other countries, such as China and South Korea, went even further, implementing outright bans on ICOs.
The Bursting of the Crypto Bubble and the Aftermath
The combination of regulatory crackdowns, concerns over market manipulation, and growing skepticism about the sustainability of the ICO-driven bull run eventually caused the so-called "crypto bubble" to burst in early 2018. As the market's sentiment turned bearish, Bitcoin's price plunged by over 80% from its peak, bottoming out at around $3,200 in December 2018.
The bursting of the crypto bubble also had far-reaching consequences for the broader market, as many other cryptocurrencies suffered similar declines in value. The total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies plummeted from its all-time high of $830 billion to just $100 billion by the end of 2018.
In the years that followed, the ICO market underwent a significant transformation, as projects began to adopt more stringent standards and regulatory frameworks. Many projects transitioned to conducting Security Token Offerings (STOs) or Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs), which offered greater compliance with securities regulations and sought to instill a higher level of investor confidence.
The Block Size Wars: Scaling Debate and the Emergence of Bitcoin Forks
The Block Size Warz, which took place primarily between 2015 and 2017, were a contentious and polarizing debate within the Bitcoin community that revolved around the issue of scaling the network to accommodate a growing number of transactions. At the core of the debate was the question of whether to increase the maximum block size, which is a parameter that determines how many transactions can be included in a single block on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Background and the Scaling Debate
When Bitcoin was first introduced in 2009, its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, set the maximum block size at 1 megabyte (MB). This limit was meant to prevent spam and denial-of-service attacks on the network, but as Bitcoin gained popularity and the number of transactions increased, it became apparent that the 1 MB limit would eventually become a bottleneck, leading to slow transaction times and higher fees.
The Bitcoin community was divided into two main camps: those who supported increasing the block size to allow for more transactions per block (known as "big blockers") and those who were against it, advocating for alternative scaling solutions such as off-chain transactions or improvements to the existing protocol (known as "small blockers").
Proposed Solutions and the Emergence of Bitcoin Forks
Various proposals were made to address the scaling issue, including Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs) and the introduction of second-layer solutions like the Lightning Network. However, no consensus was reached, and the debate grew increasingly heated and divisive.
The inability to reach a consensus eventually led to several hard forks of the Bitcoin network, essentially new blockchains with modified rules that split off from the original Bitcoin blockchain. The most notable forks were Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Bitcoin SV (BSV).
Bitcoin Cash emerged in August 2017 due to a hard fork that increased the maximum block size from 1 MB to 8 MB. This increase was aimed at accommodating more transactions per block and reducing fees. However, the Bitcoin Cash community split over disagreements on further block size increases, leading to the creation of Bitcoin SV (Satoshi's Vision) in November 2018. Bitcoin SV's primary goal was to restore what its proponents believed to be the "original vision" of Satoshi Nakamoto, and it increased the maximum block size to a staggering 128 MB.
Aftermath and Impact on the Crypto Space
The blocksize wars exposed deep divisions within the Bitcoin community and created multiple competing cryptocurrencies. While the forks helped to relieve some of the pressure on the original Bitcoin network, they also diluted the community's focus and resources.
2019: A Year of Consolidation, Maturation, and the Emergence of DeFi
The year 2019 marked a period of consolidation and maturation for the cryptocurrency market, following the aftermath of the ICO boom and the bursting of the crypto bubble. During this year, the industry experienced significant developments, including the rise of Decentralized Finance (DeFi), the growing importance of stablecoins, and regulatory advancements.
The Rise of Decentralized Finance (DeFi)
One of the most significant trends of 2019 was the emergence of Decentralized Finance or DeFi. DeFi is an ecosystem of financial applications built on blockchain technology, primarily Ethereum, aiming to democratize finance by removing intermediaries and promoting financial inclusion. DeFi platforms enable users to lend, borrow, trade, and invest in cryptocurrencies and other digital assets through smart contracts, without the need for traditional financial institutions.
Throughout 2019, DeFi platforms such as MakerDAO, Compound, and Uniswap began to gain traction, paving the way for a more comprehensive and sophisticated financial system within the cryptocurrency market. The total value locked (TVL) in DeFi protocols, a key metric of growth, increased from around $275 million in January 2019 to over $650 million by the end of the year.
The Growing Importance of Stablecoins
Stablecoins, which are cryptocurrencies pegged to stable assets like fiat currencies or commodities, gained prominence in 2019 due to their potential to mitigate the volatility associated with traditional cryptocurrencies. Tether (USDT), the most widely used stablecoin, saw its market capitalization grow substantially during this year, as it became increasingly popular among traders and investors seeking a stable store of value and a medium of exchange.
In addition to Tether, several new stablecoins entered the market, including USD Coin (USDC), Paxos Standard (PAX), and Binance USD (BUSD), offering users a diverse range of options and further highlighting the growing importance of stablecoins within the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
Regulatory Advancements and Challenges
As the cryptocurrency market matured, regulatory authorities worldwide continued to grapple with the challenges posed by the rapidly evolving landscape. In 2019, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issued guidelines requiring countries to implement anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) measures for virtual asset service providers, which included cryptocurrency exchanges.
Moreover, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) continued to enforce securities regulations, scrutinizing initial coin offerings and other token sales. This increased regulatory scrutiny led to a more compliant and transparent market, but it also presented challenges for some projects and startups seeking to navigate complex regulatory frameworks.
2020-2021: A Watershed Moment for Cryptocurrencies Amid Institutional Adoption and the COVID-19 Pandemic
The years 2020 and 2021 proved to be transformative for Bitcoin and the broader cryptocurrency market, as a combination of institutional adoption and the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic converged to propel the industry to new heights.
Institutional Adoption: Embracing Bitcoin as a Hedge and Investment Opportunity
During this period, several high-profile companies made headlines by incorporating bitcoin into their balance sheets, signaling a growing acceptance of cryptocurrencies in the corporate world. MicroStrategy, Tesla, and Square emerged as some of the most notable examples of this trend, as they allocated significant portions of their treasury reserves to bitcoin as a hedge against inflation and currency devaluation.
This wave of institutional adoption lent credibility to the cryptocurrency market and demonstrated the increasing confidence in Bitcoin as an alternative asset class. Furthermore, this development attracted more institutional investors, such as hedge funds and asset managers, to explore the potential of cryptocurrencies as an investment opportunity and diversification strategy.
The COVID-19 Pandemic: Exacerbating Economic Uncertainties and Accelerating Digitalization
The COVID-19 pandemic played an instrumental role in shaping the cryptocurrency market's trajectory during 2020 and 2021. As the pandemic swept across the globe, it wreaked havoc on economies, prompting central banks to implement unprecedented monetary stimulus measures to stave off a deeper recession. These actions included quantitative easing and near-zero interest rates, which aimed to stabilize financial markets and support economic recovery.
However, these extraordinary measures also stoked concerns about potential inflation and currency devaluation in the long term. Consequently, investors began seeking alternative stores of value, such as gold and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, to protect their wealth.
In addition to exacerbating economic uncertainties, the pandemic accelerated the shift towards digitalization. With lockdowns and social distancing measures in place, businesses and individuals had to adapt to new ways of working, shopping, and interacting. This widespread digital transformation further underscored the appeal of cryptocurrencies as borderless, decentralized, and easily accessible forms of digital money.
El Salvador Embraces Bitcoin
Indeed, as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards digitalization, it also created a favorable environment for the adoption of cryptocurrencies by countries looking to embrace the digital economy. Notably, El Salvador became the first country to officially adopt bitcoin as legal tender in June 2021, a move that could be seen as a direct consequence of the changing economic landscape brought on by the pandemic.
El Salvador's decision was driven by various factors, including the need to boost financial inclusion, attract foreign investment, and reduce dependency on the US dollar. The government also hoped that adopting Bitcoin would encourage the growth of the local digital economy and foster innovation.
Bitcoin's Meteoric Rise and Subsequent Correction
As institutional adoption gained momentum and the effects of the pandemic continued to reshape the global economy, Bitcoin's price soared from around $7,200 in January 2020 to over $60,000 in April 2021. This remarkable price surge, representing an increase of more than 700%, garnered significant attention from both retail and institutional investors, as well as the media.
Despite this impressive growth, concerns began to mount regarding the sustainability of such rapid price increases, fueling fears of another market bubble. In May 2021, a confluence of factors—including regulatory crackdowns in China, Tesla's suspension of Bitcoin payments, and the prospect of tighter monetary policies from central banks—triggered a substantial market correction. Bitcoin's price plummeted by over 70% from its all-time high, although it managed to regain some ground in the following months.
2022-2023: The Road to Recovery and Beyond
The year 2022 was a year of both turmoil and transformation for the cryptocurrency industry. From massive rallies and price surges to devastating crashes and major regulatory changes, it was a year that tested the resilience and innovation of the sector. While there were significant news events throughout 2022, the most consequential was none other than FTX’s collapse.
The Collapse of FTX
The exchange was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried and offered a range of products and services, including futures, options, leveraged tokens, prediction markets, and decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms.
In November 2022, FTX filed for bankruptcy after suffering massive losses due to a series of liquidations, hacks, and lawsuits. The exchange was accused of fraud, market manipulation, money laundering, and violating securities laws by various regulators and investors. FTX's downfall triggered a domino effect that wiped out billions of dollars from the crypto market and caused panic and distrust among users and traders. Some analysts compared FTX's collapse to the 2008 financial crisis and called it a "Lehman moment" for crypto.
After the collapse, Bitcoin fell to just over $16,000 before regaining some ground in the following weeks. The incident also prompted regulators and industry players to reevaluate the risks and vulnerabilities of the crypto market and to explore ways to enhance its transparency, accountability, and stability.
Another Collapse: Silicon Valley Bank
Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was a bank that catered to the needs of innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries in the tech sector. In 2020 and 2021, SVB saw a surge in deposits from tech companies that benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in late 2022 and early 2023, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates several times to combat soaring inflation, which was partly driven by supply chain disruptions, meteoric Fed balance sheet increases, and labor shortages caused by the pandemic.
As interest rates rose, the market value of SVB's bond portfolio declined significantly, eroding its capital cushion and reducing its ability to lend money. Many of SVB's tech clients also faced financial difficulties as consumer demand shifted away from pandemic-related services, and competition intensified from other sectors. On March 9, 2023, SVB reported a Q1 2023 loss of $1.8 billion from selling nearly all of its securities in its portfolio. In response, depositors withdrew more than $42 billion from SVB accounts, creating a liquidity crisis for the bank. After failing to secure any private funding or government assistance, SVB was shut down by the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) on March 11, 2023. The FDIC took over all of SVB's assets and liabilities and announced that it would protect all insured deposits up to $250,000 per account holder.
The fallout from the SVB collapse is likely to have far-reaching implications for the economy and crypto, including a credit crunch for startups and tech companies, a systemic risk for the banking sector, a regulatory backlash for fintech and crypto, and a flight to safety for investors.
Related: For more in-depth coverage, visit our blog post on the Collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.
The Year Ahead
Looking ahead to 2023, the cryptocurrency industry is poised to continue its evolution and maturation, driven by ongoing technological innovation, regulatory developments, and changing market dynamics. Bitcoin has risen to over $28,000 since its lows, but its future remains uncertain as it faces continued regulatory scrutiny and state-sanctioned CBDCs. However, the growing attention toward cryptocurrencies confirms that digital assets are here to stay and will garner the attention of investors and policymakers alike. The industry is expected to experience further growth, adoption, and mainstream acceptance, as more businesses and individuals recognize the potential benefits of cryptocurrencies for payments, investments, and other use cases.
As for the future, that’s anyone’s guess — but if you’re a Bitcoiner, you know that price is just one part of the game.
Stay up-to-date by following our news section in the blog, where every month we provide a comprehensive overview of everything that happened in the world of Bitcoin.