Have you heard? Cyptocurrency is so hot right now. Bitcoin's price has been climbing for the better part of a year, topping $2,000 per coin for the first time in May, and rising to a record high above $2,500 — before dropping down just above $2,400 a coin as of Friday afternoon, per CoinDesk.
Those numbers mean nothing to you? This one might: If you had made a small investment in bitcoin back in 2010 — buying just $100 worth, when each unit was worth a fraction of a cent — your stash would be valued today at more than $70 million. Talk about an early retirement!
Even if you had been late to the party and bought bitcoin last year, you would be feeling pretty good. At one point, bitcoin prices were up roughly 180% for the year, as CNBC reported. Compare that with the broad stock market, which returned between 7.9% and 15%, depending on which index you look at.
Other cryptocurrencies have been on a tear as well. Ethereum, launched in 2015, is a software platform that has a cryptocurrency of its own, called "ether." Ether, or "ether tokens," hit a new all-time high Wednesday after climbing more than 35% in 24 hours, per CoinDesk. (There's also litecoin, which is similar to bitcoin but easier to obtain, more transactional, and seen as less valuable.)
So does that mean you should buy cryptocurrency today? Some say yes: One bitcoin proponent told CNBC he expects its value to keep rising and hit $100,000 within the decade. While digital currencies may seem alien now, it serves to remember that when Apple and other tech brands began gaining steam in the 1980s, people were skeptical anyone would have use for a personal computer. That story had a happy ending for early Apple investors.
Then again, hindsight can be 20/20, and just because an asset's price is going up doesn't mean it's actually getting more valuable. Just ask someone who bought U.S. real estate in 2007, or a tulip bulb during the infamous Dutch tulip bubble. If all that is driving prices to rise is hype, it's a good time to remember that what goes up must come down.
Feeling torn? Here's what you need to know about investing in Crypto