Chart: How Bitcoin Reached Parity With Gold
Charting the fast and volatile rise of bitcoin
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Would you rather have one bitcoin, or a single ounce of gold?
The answer used to be obvious. Even at the climax of the legendary 2013 rally, bitcoin was never able to reach unit-for-unit parity with gold.
However, since an off-year in 2014, the enigmatic cryptocurrency has steadily climbed in price to take the title of the best-performing currency in both 2015 and 2016. And today? After continuing its rally into 2017, the price of bitcoin has now passed this arbitrary, but psychologically important measure of parity with an ounce of gold.
How did we get here so fast?
Bitcoin: A Short History
Here are some of the most important events that have shaped the bitcoin market:
May 2010: The famous “Bitcoin Pizza” transaction takes place.
This is one of the first “real world” transactions, in which one man indirectly paid 10,000 BTC for two Papa John’s pizzas. That works out to a pretty steep price of over $6 million per pizza using today’s prices, but we are sure they were delicious. Today, May 22 is still celebrated as “Bitcoin Pizza Day” throughout the Bitcoin community.
February 2011: Bitcoin hits “dollar parity”.
October 2012: Bitpay says 1,000 merchants accept bitcoin payments.
Early adopters of the cryptocurrency included WordPress.com, Reddit, OKCupid, and The Pirate Bay.
Mar 2013: Cyprus bank bail-in.
Generally speaking, the European Debt Crisis was a major boon for bitcoin. However, this specific event really put the potential downsides of the banking system and centralized fiat currencies in the limelight.
Oct 2013: Silk Road Bust
As prices were soaring at the end of 2013, the FBI seized 26,000 BTC from Silk Road and its alleged owner, Ross Ulbricht.
Feb 2014: Mt. Gox files for bankruptcy protection
The world’s biggest exchange, which at one point controlled 70% of bitcoin transactions, was plagued with hacks and other problems. It finally went under in 2014.
Aug 2015: By this point, 160,000 merchants accept bitcoin payments
Bitcoin’s Rise in Context
For enthusiasts and speculators that have followed the cryptocurrency since the beginning, the meteoric rise of bitcoin has been a wild ride.
However, despite the feat of reaching unit-for-unit parity with gold, it is important to take in some context.
Firstly, there are about 16.2 million BTC in circulation – and there are 5.6 billion oz of gold that have been mined throughout history. For that reason the value of the gold market is still more than 300x higher.
Next, while the value of the bitcoin market has soared exponentially since the early days, it is still only worth about $20 billion in total – this is about half of the value of the average company on the S&P 500 (~$40 billion). Compare the bitcoin market to an Apple or Google, and it seems even less extraordinary.
But for those people that follow the crypto markets closely, this above context actually represents the potential upside of the digital cryptocurrency. It means bitcoin still has lots of room to soar – and since bitcoin supply is limited and cannot be created out of thin air, there is nowhere for the price to go but up.
Bitcoin is Near All-Time Highs and the Mainstream Doesn’t Care…Yet
As bitcoin charges towards all-time highs, search interest is relatively low. How much attention has bitcoin’s recent rally gotten?
Bitcoin Near All-Time Highs vs. Search Interest
Just about every financial asset saw a huge drop in March, but few have had the spectacular recovery that bitcoin has had since then.
Up more than 300% from the March lows, bitcoin is within $1,000 of its all-time high ($19,891) established three years ago. While 2017’s run-up saw a huge surge in Google searches, interest this time around is less than a quarter of what it was back then.
This graphic overlays bitcoin’s price changes against Google search interest for “bitcoin” between 2017-Nov 2020, showing the muted relative search interest for its recent rally. Despite Google search interest being low, it is turning upwards, potentially hinting at a rise to cap off 2020.
Nobody’s Searching? Maybe Bitcoin is Already Mainstream
Bitcoin’s mainstream attention in 2017 was exceptional, and was likely the first time many people had even heard about the digital asset.
After doing all of their Google research back then, it’s possible that the general population is now well aware of the cryptocurrency and doesn’t need to search up the basics again. Add to this that bitcoin is now easily purchasable through popular services like Robinhood and Paypal, and you have fewer people who need Google to figure out the intricacies of bitcoin wallets and transactions.
While people might not be searching for information on bitcoin, the media has certainly picked up on its movement over the past year. Mainstream coverage regarding the cryptocurrency is currently at a relative all-time high for the past 12 months.
Even if current mainstream coverage isn’t far from previous peaks, it’s still likely that people are seeing an increase in bitcoin content in their news feeds following the recent surge.
This rally is also attracting increased talk on social media sites like Twitter. That said, while there has been a rise in the volume of bitcoin-related tweets in November 2020, numbers are still quite low compared to the amount of tweets in 2017.
Daily tweet volume reached above 60,000 recently, but is still far from the +100,000 daily tweets that were being sent at the top of 2017’s bull run.
Where in the World is Google Search Interest for Bitcoin?
Even if worldwide search interest isn’t as high as it was in 2017, there is one country where bitcoin is being googled more now: Nigeria.
Since 2015, the Nigerian Naira has lost more than 50% of its value against the U.S. dollar. This, coupled with the country’s high share of unbanked citizens means that alternative currencies and payment methods have steadily risen in popularity and utility.
FinTech startups like Chipper Cash are providing Nigeria and other African nations with no-fee P2P payment services, along with the ability to trade bitcoin. The service is also beta testing the buying and selling of fractional shares of popular U.S. stocks.
Started up in 2018, Chipper Cash’s monthly payment values are now over $100 million, and the company has attracted investment from top VC funds like Bezos Expeditions as they provide a valuable service in an emerging market.
If Bitcoin is Mainstream, Where Does It Go From Here?
While bitcoin is proving itself to be a useful medium of exchange around the world, it’s still primarily a speculative asset. As 2020 saw massive increases in money supply across the board, bitcoin reacted best compared to other speculative assets, with its ascent to $19,000 almost completely uninterrupted since the $10,000 price area.
Time will tell if 2017 is set to repeat itself, or if bitcoin is getting ready to set new all-time highs going into 2021.
Mapped: Cryptocurrency Regulations Around the World
Cryptocurrency regulations are essential for the future of digital finance, making it more attractive for businesses, banks, and investors worldwide.
Mapped: Cryptocurrency Regulations Around the World
Following the unprecedented cryptocurrency boom in 2017, investors and governments alike could no longer ignore the growth of decentralized finance.
The world has become increasingly fascinated with cryptocurrencies and the ways they are enabling greater access, such as being able to send funds to remote places or securing capital for small businesses.
To aid this, cryptocurrency regulations are being slowly introduced into global financial markets. Regulations help to monitor these emerging digital currencies, and to allow for clearer guidelines and a measure of security.
The Regulatory Landscape
Today’s graphic from ComplyAdvantage maps out major regulatory cryptocurrency and exchange landscapes around the world, showing how sentiments towards digital currencies are evolving.
To do this, ComplyAdvantage measured cryptocurrency regulatory environments using their own Light-to-Tight scale, based on the following criteria:
- Cryptocurrencies and exchanges status? (Ban = 3 points, Regulated = 2 points, Grey Area = 1 point)
- Cryptocurrency considered legal tender? (Yes = 1 point, No = 0 points)
- Planned legislation to increase crypto regulation? (Yes = 1 point, No = 0 points)
Which jurisdictions have the strictest and most relaxed regulations for cryptocurrencies?
Regulations by Region
Global attitudes towards the rise of cryptocurrencies have shifted greatly over the past few years. While the term cryptocurrency is a bit of a misnomer, some countries do consider digital currencies legal tender, with many viewing cryptocurrencies as commodities.
Below is a table of the major countries that are pursuing cryptocurrency regulations:
|Country||Cryptocurrencies||Exchanges||Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)|
|Australia||Legal; treated as property||Legal, must register with AUSTRAC||Regulated|
|Switzerland||Legal; generally accepted as payment||Legal, regulated by SFTA||Regulated|
|Malta||Not legal tender||Legal, regulated under the VFA Act||Regulated|
|Estonia||Not legal tender||Legal, must register with the Financial Intelligence Unit||Regulated|
|Gibraltar||Not legal tender||Legal, must register with the GFSC||Regulated|
|Luxembourg||Not legal tender||Legal, must register with the CSSF||Regulated|
|Canada||Not legal tender; some retailers accept as payment||Legal, regulation varies by province; final federal regulations expected late 2019||Regulated|
|Mexico||Legal, accepted as payment in some contexts||Grey area; first crypto exchange in opened mid 2019||Regulated|
|Lithuania||Not legal tender||Legal, must register with the Lithuanian Finance Ministry||Grey area|
|United States||Not legal tender; some retailers accept as payment||Legal, regulation varies by state; SEC expected to publish updated crypto regulations late 2019||Grey area|
|UK||Not legal tender; considered assets||Legal, registration requirements with FCA||Grey area|
|Russia||Not legal tender||Grey area; regulations to be determined by the end of 2019||Grey area|
|Japan||Legal; treated as property||Legal, must register with the Financial Services Agency||Grey area|
|Nigeria||Legal||Grey area; regulations upcoming from Central Bank of Nigeria||Grey area|
|Singapore||Not legal tender||Legal, no registration required||Grey area|
|South Korea||Not legal tender||Legal and regulated, must register with FSS||Banned|
|India||Not legal tender; digital rupee may be in the works||Effectively illegal, but global and federal regulations being considered||Banned|
|China||Bitcoin considered property; all other cryptocurrencies banned||Illegal, but a global regulatory framework being considered||Banned|
Japan has one of the most progressive regulatory climates for cryptocurrencies, widely considering bitcoin as legal tender and passing a law in mid-2017 recognizing cryptocurrencies as legal property. In late 2018, Japan also approved self-regulation for the crypto industry.
By contrast, China currently has one of the most restrictive environments in the world for cryptocurrency. China banned bitcoin transactions in 2013, as well as ICOs and crypto exchanges in 2017─though many have found workarounds through sites not yet firewalled.
Cryptocurrency and exchange regulations in the EU are determined by individual member states, and are considered legal across the bloc.
Digital currency offers great promise, through its ability to reach people and businesses in remote and marginalized regions.
—Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of IMF
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Switzerland has one of the most open climates for cryptocurrencies and exchanges in Europe. In 2016, the city of Zug, known as “Crypto Valley”, started accepting bitcoin as payment for city fees. Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann announced his goal in 2018 to make Switzerland the world’s first “crypto-nation”.
Both Canada and the U.S. take a similar approach to cryptocurrency legislation at the federal level, as both countries view cryptocurrencies as securities. However, provincial and state regulations differ widely in their taxation requirements of profits from crypto investments.
Regulations throughout Latin and South America run the full legislative spectrum.
- Bolivia: unilateral ban on cryptocurrencies and exchanges
- Ecuador: the first country to launch its own token; ban on all cryptocurrencies aside from its government-issued SDE token (Sistema de Dinero Electrónico = electronic money system)
- Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile: cryptocurrencies widely accepted as payment
- Venezuela: cryptocurrencies widely accepted; this makes sense, considering the economic crisis and subsequent freefall of the bolívar
The Importance of Cryptocurrency Regulations
Cryptocurrency’s journey is the story of a technology rapidly outpacing the laws that govern it.
Governments around the world are keenly aware of this problem. Members of the G20 published a request in June 2019 for a global regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies to be implemented to better manage the benefits and challenges that cryptocurrencies bring.
Regulation for both cryptocurrencies and crypto exchanges is essential for the future of digital finance─bringing legitimacy to the digital financial market, and making it more attractive for new businesses, established banks, and investors worldwide to more easily conduct business within this emerging ecosystem.
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