When the bitcoin price declined from nearly $20,000 in Dec. 2017 to below $6,000 during the first quarter of 2018, many observers blamed new investors whose shaky hands had never endured a true bear market.
However, new research from blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis suggests that it was long-term investors, hands calloused from years of holding though they may have been, who triggered the decline and then continued to sell into the dip — to the tune of $30 billion worth of bitcoin between Dec. 2017 and April 2018.
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“This was an unprecedented sell-off and such an opportunity is unlikely to be repeated soon,” the firm wrote in its report.
According to C analysis, those former holders largely sold to new speculators — not other long-term investors, shifting the balance of bitcoin wealth away from those with a demonstrated ability to hold through adversity and toward buyers who may not have the stomach for a multi-year bear market.
That cuts against the conventional wisdom surrounding the decline, which said that fair-weather investors — many of whom had bought bitcoin close to its all-time high — had panicked at the first sign of a downturn and sold their coins while holders strengthened their grip in preparation for a bear cycle.
Moreover, the influx of new speculators has depressed the bitcoin price since these users are far more quick to sell their coins than long-term investors. In fact, the reports note that the amount of BTC available for trading has increased by 57 percent since the sell-off began in December. At present, the supply of circulating bitcoins is split nearly evenly between investors and speculators.
However, this sell-off did not come without a silver lining. Since speculators tend to own fewer coins than long-term investors, bitcoin wealth is less concentrated than it was prior to 2017. Of course, they also tend to be less-inclined to holding, which means that it will take more demand to move the price needle in a positive direction than in the past.