- According to CoinMarketCap and Messari, the all-time high (ATH) price of Bitcoin is $20,089.
- The ATH at top exchanges ranges from $19,660 on Kraken to $20,093 on BitMEX.
- To many Bitcoin observers, the dollar value doesn't matter beyond bringing attention to the asset.
When the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the S&P 500 hit a record, you know it. There’s just one number. But if/when the price of Bitcoin, currently on an epic tear, breaks its previous all-time high, we may not realize it because we can’t agree on what the current all-time high is.
Neeraj Agrawal, Communications Director for cryptocurrency advocacy organization Coin Center, posed the question on Twitter: “What is the ATH anyway[?] I’m serious I don’t know the number[.]”
I’m serious I don’t know the number
— Neeraj K. Agrawal (@NeerajKA) November 24, 2020
Agrawal was referring to the dollar value of Bitcoin, a difficult number to pin down when it’s constantly trading for different prices on every exchange.
Larry Cermak of The Block composed a list of the ATH on top exchanges, with Bitcoin price values ranging from $19,660 (Kraken) at the low end to $20,093 (BitMEX) at the high end.
But according to CoinMarketCap, the all-time high is $20,089, reached on December 17, 2017. According to CoinMarketCap’s methodology, “The price of any cryptoasset is a volume weighted average of market pair prices for the cryptoasset.” It incorporates volume in order to limit publishing wild price swings from exchanges with low liquidity.
Messari uses the same number, $20,089, but explains: “The ATH quote is not necessarily the absolute highest single trade price. Due to the nature of the historical data we analyze, we are not always able to look at every trade for an asset. For some assets, the ATH quoted may refer to the All-Time-Highest daily average, or a price-sample on the day the All-Time-High [occurred].”
Not clear yet? Well, wait, there’s another number that frequently pops up: $19,783. That figure, which is from the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, is frequently cited by publications such as Fortune as the all-time high Bitcoin price.
The difference in index numbers, Messari researcher Ryan Watkins told Decrypt, “all depends on which exchanges they’re using and how each provider calculates prices.”
So...where does that leave us?
When asked to answer his own question, Agrawal told Decrypt, “Really I guess 20k is the line for mainstream attention (which is why I care).”
Artur Sapek, founder of crypto markets platform and Kraken subsidiary Cryptowatch, agreed.
"Personally I think around $20k is a good milestone to consider an all-time high, because the ATHs varied so much on each exchange and because the dollar has lost some value since 2017,” Sapek told Decrypt. “Inflation-adjusted, $20k seems like a reasonable ATH figure to be using right now."
Paul Veradittakit, partner at Pantera Capital, told Decrypt: “I never really thought price mattered except for the media, mainstream, fundraising, and recruiting. That said, it is helpful when price is up and I do consider Bitcoin ATH to be $19,783, when it hits that price on a majority of exchanges.”
Sino Global Capital CEO Matthew Graham told Decrypt: “I don’t think it matters. However you measure it, we will blow past the old highs before long. Everything is in front of us.”
Let’s just call it $20,000.
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index as the CoinDesk 20 Index.