Bitcoin investors have seen a rapid price drop burn through the value of their holdings and most other digital currencies have dived in value as well.
In a market well-used to boom and bust moments, the past few days of trading stand out as one of the spectacular crashes.
Investors and market experts are struggling to come to terms with the loss.
At one stage, Bitcoin lost $1,200 in a few hours to plunge from $7,600 to $6,400, where the price currently sits.
So what caused the crash?
Several possibilities have been put forward, but they could just as well figure as coincidence.
At the top of the list is rampant fraud and theft. Hardly a few days go by without hackers infiltrating a cryptocurrency exchange.
Market manipulation from pump-and-dump schemes is another favourite, along with outspoken claims from alleged market gurus talking up initial coin offerings that sometimes seemed doomed to fail when the emotion of investing is stripped away.
Pension regulators have warned that the riskiest investments are offshore holiday resorts, where thousands of ordinary retirement savers have lost their life savings. These schemes are starting to pop up as ICOs and should come with the same wealth warnings handed out to other investors.
But the truth is no one knows what drives the Bitcoin market except for a dream of wealth for many. No one knows if the market is correcting after the huge gains of last year or if some other forces are at play in the short term.
Market at 12-month low
ICOs are the wild frontier of cryptocurrency and investment is up more than 500% in a year from $3.7 billion to $18 billion – and a large proportion fail.
A withering fact is no one who has purchased Bitcoin since October 30, 2017 is currently in profit.
The price then was $6124.
Investors buying before then saw the price climb to $19,345, but has steadily fallen since then with some notable rallies.
The same follows for other cryptocurrencies. Ethereum was $223 a year ago, peaked at $1385 in December and has followed a downward trajectory since. The current trade is around $221.