I've been writing for weeks that a cryptocurrency crash was imminent. Last week, I wrote about Overstock, which is down significantly, and its foray into the world of cryptocurrencies. Since then, either this crash has already begun or "cryptos" are witnessing a monumental correction. Since Tuesday, market cap leader Bitcoin has lost about 30 percent of its value or about $50 billion to trade at around $10,000 to one Bitcoin. In the 24-hour period from noon GMT Tuesday, the next five cryptocurrencies following Bitcoin, namely Ethereum, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash and Cardano, are all down by 18, 23, 29, 21 and 25 percent, respectively. Is this just a flash-crash/fat-finger type scenario or have the "fundamentals" of the currencies fallen out?
Should Bitcoin crash it would be the greatest bubble in the history of bubbles, trailed closely by the "Dutch Tulip Mania" bubble of the late 17th century. With skyrocketing market caps, these cryptocurrencies have accumulated all of the wrong type of attention. Last week, the South Korean Justice Minister hinted at an all-out ban of trading the currencies. Faced with a public outcry from heavily invested traders, the government walked back such threats. This week, however, the ban is back on the table with Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon in a TBS radio interview saying the ban is still a "a live option but government ministries need to very seriously review it." Kim went on to describe minimum levels of regulation, including lifting the veil of anonymity by forcing owners of the currency to disclose their trades and holdings.
As governments begin to jump on the regulation bandwagon, these cryptocurrencies will soon be stripped of their most appealing aspects. While the ledger-keeping advantages of blockchain technology will still be kept intact, the point at which the currencies are exchanged for traditional currencies will be regulated. At this point, governments will know who is exchanging their cryptocurrencies for domestic currencies. As anonymity disappears, so too will the allure of cryptocurrencies. Declaring the purchase of cryptocurrencies or the trade of goods or services for cryptos will largely defeat the purpose of their existence. While most will go completely bust, perhaps a few will hang on if they're adopted by a network of firms. These firms may benefit from conducting intra-network transactions in this fashion. Short of adoption by Amazon, Walmart and other brand named retailers, most cryptocurrencies will bust in the very near future.
A quick review of cryptocurrency rankings reveals there are over 3,000 cryptocurrencies "trading." Perhaps a "common currency" among the cryptocurrencies in which a fixed rate is established to buy into a new currency - with a central counterparty - will allow for consolidation among the various "brands." Let's be honest here, the currencies are simply just different brands of what is mostly the same blockchain technology. While national currencies can be judged by that country's staying power, military strength, current account balance, inflation, etc., this is not the case for cryptocurrencies. Acceptance as a means of transaction and widespread ownership are the only two factors on which a prospective investor in the currency can judge it. Successful PR work ahead of an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) is the only way in which those that launch the currency can shore up the most interest ahead of its initiation. After the ICO the holders of the currency, along with vendors that will accept it, alone will decide its fate.
What's my advice for those that hold a contrarian view? Those that say Bitcoin and many of its crypto-brethren are here to stay? Those that got into the currencies at fractions of a penny and now have major crypto-wealth? My advice would be to get out while you still can. Especially if you have major gains, realize them, or at least a part of those gains. The reality is that even if cryptocurrencies do survive, and I do believe that a select few will survive-albeit at much lower levels, the vast majority will be obsolete by the end of the year. Those that do survive, however, will need the blessing of at least one major domestic currency to act as a conduit via which investors will trade their "coins" for the domestic currency they actually want. So much has changed in the last week, I can't wait to see where we are in a few weeks' time.