Bitcoin is down more than 80% from last year's high, nearing its worst-ever bear market

  • Despite bitcoin’s relatively short 10-year existence, it’s already on its third bear market plunge of 80 percent or more.
  • Bitcoin has seen downturns as deep as 92 percent in 2011, and about 84 percent leading up to 2015.
  • In dollar terms though, 2018 has been by far the worst rout, with $700 billion in market cap knocked off the cryptocurrency market.
Bear concept
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Bitcoin is only 10 years old, but the cryptocurrency has already seen its fair share of bear markets.

The most recent one, which some are dubbing "crypto winter," worsened over the weekend. The cryptocurrency slid below $3,500 for the first time in 14 months, then later recovered toward the $3,900 level by Monday, according to data from CoinDesk. That brings its decline from last year's peak to more than 81 percent.

That loss isn't the worst bitcoin has suffered, but the world's largest digital currency is getting close.

Way, way back in 2010

Bitcoin's current level is still well above the fraction of a penny price where it first began trading in 2010— and its early investors are mostly wealthier because of it.

By June 2011, it had risen to a new all-time high of roughly $30. But by that November, the cryptocurrency was back below $2.50, tumbling more than 92 percent from their high.

That year, volume was still low and the dozens of now popular trading exchanges like Coinbase didn't exist yet. Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox was handling roughly 70 percent of all cryptocurrency transactions in the world.

The site experienced its first of multiple hacks in 2011, and its eventual downfall coincided with what would be bitcoin's next bear market in 2013.

2013 through 2015

Two years later, most bitcoin trading was still done on the soon-to-be defunct Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange. During the two years leading up to 2015, Mt. Gox was effectively frozen out of the U.S. banking system for regulatory issues. It stopped trading, closed its website and filed for bankruptcy protection.

Bitcoin first shot above the $1,000 mark in December 2013, according to data from CoinDesk. Two years later, it was back below $200. The cryptocurrency saw an 84 percent rout between those two years.

2018

Measured in dollars, this year's damage has been much more significant. Roughly $700 billion has been wiped off cryptocurrencies' global market capitalization since the high, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com. The price of one bitcoin has dropped more than $15,000 since December.

Bitcoin skyrocketed to current its all-time high of almost $20,000 in December 2017. Coinbase's CEO said this summer that at the height of that boom, the exchange was opening up 50,000 new accounts a day, for mostly retail investors. The all-time high also came ahead of the availability of bitcoin futures. Those products have also fallen. On Monday, they dropped to their lowest levels since launching.

Trading volumes are also down drastically. Bitcoin's 24-hour volume was near $49 billion at the peak, and as of Monday was down 61 percent, to $19 billion.

Even some bitcoin bulls are anticipating more short-term carnage.

Anthony Pompliano, founder and partner at crypto investment firm Morgan Creek Digital Assets, is predicting an 85 percent decline from the all-time high. That would make this year's downturn the second-worst bear market for bitcoin, implying a price of about $3,000.

"We've probably got a bit more to fall," Pompliano told CNBC's Squawk Box Monday.

Still, Pompliano is bullish on its long-term value. Despite the volatility, it's still the up more than 400 percent in the past two years, far outperforming the S&P 500's 20 gains in the same time frame.

"Through 2017 all of the buyers were retail — as the price is drawing down you're starting to see institutional investors come in," Pompliano said.