Bitcoin’s Rise Could Be Endless. Here’s Why.
A lot of people want bitcoin to succeed. It’s nearly impossible to quantify “a lot” but a conservative estimate is roughly 70 million. That’s how many wallets exist in Blockchain.com’s ecosystem — and that’s just one platform.
There are also “a lot” of people who want Bitcoin to fail, but the tide has shifted — you’re in the minority if you don’t believe in bitcoin’s future. The OG cryptocurrency converts doubters into believers every year, which is validated by its meteoric appreciation over the last decade. Even major companies like Tesla and Square bought in.
But can bitcoin’s atmospheric ascent continue? If human behavior tells us anything, yes.
While I’m not a diehard bitcoin enthusiast (I don’t even own it), I’m also not blind to the reality that’s playing out in front of us. This isn’t a promise that bitcoin will grow indefinitely, no one can promise that. But there are several factors that could enable and encourage the coin’s upward movement for a very, very long time.
First and foremost: the most popular cryptocurrency must continue sucking as a currency.
Why Bitcoin sucks as a currency
Bitcoin is a decentralized payment network that doesn’t rely on a central authority or intermediaries. In other words, people can use bitcoin to conduct digital transactions without the meddling of a financial institution. As the “cryptocurrency” moniker implies, bitcoin is a currency: a standardized means to trade for goods and services.
The term “cryptocurrency” is deceiving in many cases, including Bitcoin’s. You can use bitcoin to purchase a lot of things — for instance, gift cards to major retailers on sites like Gyft — so, it qualifies as a currency.
But if I offered you 0.0001 bitcoin, you wouldn’t spend it on an overpriced Panera sandwich.
Most people who own bitcoin didn’t acquire it to spend — they bought it to invest.
Trading currencies isn’t anything new; the foreign exchange market experiences trillions of dollars worth of transactions every day. But people don’t buy fiat currencies with the expectation of generating life-altering wealth, even in the forex market. You don’t see anyone hoarding Russian rubles with hopes that a single ruble will be worth $50,000 one day — it just doesn’t work that way.
Currencies like the US dollar, euro, and Japanese yen can be used as means of exchange because they’re good stores of value. The purchasing power of a dollar can change, but it’s not nearly as volatile. If you can buy something for $1 today, you’ll very likely be able to buy it for $1 tomorrow.
Bitcoin — and many other cryptocurrencies — can’t say the same because their values experience massive daily fluctuations. There are cryptocurrencies (called stablecoins) designed to be stable means of exchange, but they aren’t nearly as popular.
The “currency” function of bitcoin and many other coins is merely a way to gain widespread appeal. Even if that wasn’t the original intention, the fact that it can be used in everyday society is more of a selling point. It’s like a vehicle‘s top speed — how practical is that really? Unless you’re racing or robbing banks, when do you need to go 180 miles per hour? You don’t, but it’s an alluring feature.
There’s a reason bitcoin is often referred to as “digital gold” — it better resembles a speculative commodity instead of a currency. It only has value because people give it value, which is the first factor that paves the way for the coin’s growth.
Why Bitcoin can grow indefinitely
Beyond functioning as a volatile investment instead of a currency, bitcoin has several other factors working in its favor. The first three represent economic advantages:
- Fractional shares
- Accessible markets
- Controlled supply
The option to buy fractional shares keeps players in the game. You don’t have to be able to afford a whole bitcoin to invest. That’s revolutionary. A massive price tag won’t scare investors away as easily.
Think about it — imagine if you had to buy entire bitcoins. It would have rapidly extended beyond the financial reach of most people. A $50,000 entry cost ostracizes most socioeconomic classes. Bitcoin would have converted into a toy of the wealthy.
Instead, no one is excluded from buying Bitcoin.
Coupled with fractional shares, people need accessible markets, which streamline the buy-and-sell process. A lengthy, complicated, and illiquid process would deter people (and businesses) from investing.
However, there are hundreds of crypto exchanges. The top exchanges, according to CoinMarketCap, facilitate billions of dollars worth of crypto transactions every day.
A controlled supply protects the dilution of a bitcoin’s value. Unless bitcoin’s protocols change, only 21 million Bitcoins can be mined; to date, roughly 18.6 million coins have been mined. Estimates suggest that the last Bitcoin won’t be mined for quite a while (the year 2140), but who knows what will happen between now and then — there’s even some speculation that bitcoin’s protocols could change.
These three factors are integral to the cryptocurrency’s continued growth. However, bitcoin’s success is more of a psychological experiment than anything else. The primary reasons bitcoin’s price tag can inflate indefinitely?
It’s simple: bitcoin’s ascent is fueled by a greedy buy-hold-sell game. Investors continue to pump money in because they believe someone will pay a higher price in the future.
Of course, the same supply-and-demand principle applies to traditional assets too — but stocks, real estate, startups, etc. have intrinsic values that root them to realistic price points. We can evaluate a company’s underlying operations, management teams, employees, products, services, intellectual property, customer bases, and so on.
Bitcoin has no intrinsic value. Its worth is based solely on belief and acceptance. The more people believe in it (and buy it), the more it appreciates.
It’s like trading baseball cards in a sense. They’re collectibles with zero functional value. Yet, a 1952 Mickey Mantle card just traded for $5.2 million (a mind-blowing sum considering a pack of baseball cards was worth as little as a penny back then). Trading cards can be worth millions simply because people give them value.
Bitcoin is a global sensation with many well-documented success stories — which continuously spurs widespread “fear of missing out.”
It’s like the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, except with a modern, digital twist. Back then, tens of thousands of people spent their life savings (or borrowed significant sums) to travel to California and mine for gold. The allure of massive fortunes incited a gold fever. Sound familiar?
By this point, there’s a decent chance you know someone who’s made a small fortune from trading bitcoin. Back in 2012, when I was a freshman in college, a guy from my hall started mining bitcoin. Today, he’s a millionaire living in Switzerland. It sounded crazy at the time, but obviously, he was right in the end. And he’s just one example.
It’s frustrating, in a way. You can do everything right and by the book: work hard, live within your means, save, invest responsibly in conventional assets — and repeat. Meanwhile, people gambled on something they read about in the depths of Reddit and became millionaires.
FOMO and frustration are powerful emotions. In bitcoin’s case, they’ve been compounding catalysts, driving people to hop aboard the bitcoin bandwagon.
People prefer to buy an idea
The general public fixates on speculative assets because people prefer to buy the idea of something — a vision of greater things to come (and the cash windfall those greater things could create). It’s why we glamorize bitcoin’s price milestones: $1,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, and so on.
Every added digit makes it more “real.”
While no one can predict the future (myself included), it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that Bitcoin can rise in perpetuity. Here’s a summary of why:
- So long as investors can own fractional shares, no one is eliminated from the buyer-pool.
- So long as there are accessible markets to process transactions, people can keep trading.
- So long as there’s a finite supply (and there is), a coin’s value can’t be diluted by minting more coins.
- So long as people think someone will pay a higher price in the future, they’ll keep purchasing.
- So long as people continue making small fortunes, more people will grow envious and join in too.
It’s a lengthy list of conditions, but there seems to be more working in bitcoin’s favor than against it.
This isn’t bitcoin propaganda. This isn’t financial advice. I’m not advocating for people to dump their life savings into cryptocurrencies. I simply felt the need to share my thoughts. (Again, I don’t even own bitcoin.)
Like any speculative investment, there are massive risks. Bitcoin’s price has experienced its share of lags and monumental setbacks. If you purchased a bitcoin at its peak in 2017 ($19,783), your investment would have lost 84% of its value over the next year. Further, it wouldn’t have returned to its previous high until last December. Assuming you weathered the three-year storm, you’d be sitting on hefty unrealized gains — but that’s a big “if.”
It’s also not unrealistic to assume bitcoin will experience another significant drop again — especially if major players convert their coins back to cash. We’ve already seen several companies make room on their balance sheets for bitcoin. If more enter the picture, that only adds rocket fuel to bitcoin’s price. But that volatility goes both ways.
At the end of the day, since there’s nothing to fundamentally evaluate, public perception drives bitcoin’s value.
As of now, it’s pretty easy to spot which direction it’s going.