Market Wrap Year-End Review: Altcoins, NFTs Filled Void When Bitcoin Got Boring

Hi Market Wrap readers! During the final two weeks of 2021, we’re using this space to recap this year’s most dramatic moments in cryptocurrency markets – and highlight the key lessons from this fast-evolving corner of global finance. Over a series of eight posts that started on Dec. 20 and will run through Thursday, we’ll recap what shook crypto markets this year. (Scroll down for today’s latest crypto-market prices and top gainers/losers.)

On Monday, we showed how some large investors began to cash out of their bitcoin trades in April and May, as prices retreated from the then-all-time-high price of around $65,000. Concerns about rampant speculation and a decline in global money supply growth were some reasons why investors began to jump ship. Then investors became concerned about bitcoin’s environmental footprint, which also caused Tesla to reconsider its involvement in the cryptocurrency. The selling pressure accelerated in May after China banned cryptocurrencies.

It was a wild first half of the year for bitcoin, but by June, the market began to settle down. BTC stabilized at around $30,000 after dropping nearly 50% over the span of a couple months. During that time, traders flocked to alternative cryptocurrencies (altcoins) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in hopes of greater profits.

Altcoin season in full effect

Around the start of the year, multiple altcoins began to outperform bitcoin (BTC), reflecting a strong appetite for risk among investors. The payments token XRP rallied nearly eightfold between January and April, and the prices of many decentralized finance (DeFi) tokens such as Aave’s AAVE token and Uniswap’s UNI also soared.

Even during the broad crypto market sell-off, altcoins began to account for a greater share of the total crypto universe – shrinking bitcoin’s “dominance” in the industry jargon. Many “Ethereum killers,” or competitors in the field of smart contracts blockchains, began to grab the attention of traders – such as Solana, with its SOL token. So-called layer 2 tokens such as MATIC from Polygon, which aims to increase the efficiency of transactions on the Ethereum blockchain, rose nearly twofold in July.

The chart below shows bitcoin’s market capitalization relative to the total crypto market capitalization, known as the bitcoin dominance ratio. BTC’s relative market cap loss began to accelerate between March and May before stabilizing at around 40% in the following months.

The NFT craze

As bitcoin’s price stabilized at around $30,000 in July and August, some traders became bored, literally.

It had been clear since March just how far this year’s crypto craze extended beyond bitcoin, when a piece of digital artwork sold for $69.3 million at a Christie’s auction by crypto artist Beeple. In the wake of breathless headlines in traditional media outlets like the New York Times, the potential riches from selling non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, attracted scores of artists, celebrities and traders seeking additional investments in the crypto market.

.@beeple ‘s ‘The First 5000 Days’, the 1st purely digital NFT based artwork offered by a major auction house has sold for $69,346,250, positioning him among the top three most valuable living artists. Major Thanks to @beeple + @makersplaceco. More details to be released shortly

— Christie’s (@ChristiesInc) March 11, 2021

The Bored Apes Yacht Club became the second-most popular NFT collection by total trade volume behind CryptoPunks, CoinDesk’s Eli Tan wrote in August. At that time, the “floor price” for Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs – the cheapest available on the open market – was 48.8 ETH, or $165,578. (By the end of the year, it would rise even further, to about $240,500.)

Owners of the high-priced NFT collection include National Basketball Association superstar Steph Curry, YouTube creator Logan Paul and musician Jermaine Dupri.

Speculation moves in cycles. Crypto traders began the year in full buying mode and then price declines encouraged some profit-taking as regulatory risks unfolded. The speculative wave had its ups and downs, but traders were able to find opportunities in the alternative crypto market as bitcoin began to lose its relative dominance.

In the next episode, we’ll show how bitcoin’s price broke out of a two month-long sideways range as El Salvador came to the rescue.

Relevant News

Solana Wallet Phantom Nixes Auction for iOS Beta Invites After Community EruptsOpenDAO’s SOS Token Hits $250M Market Cap Despite Unclear Goals, Security RisksDeFi Portfolio Tracking Firm DeBank Raises $25M in Round Led by Sequoia ChinaIran Banning Crypto Mining Until March 6 to Save Power: ReportRBI Recommends India Implement Basic Version of CBDCMultiple Metaverses, One Avatar: ‘Ready Player Me’ Raises $13M to Make It HappenHow Crypto’s Regulatory Scene Might Evolve in 2022How Bitcoin’s Lightning Network Advanced in 2021Ozzy Ozbourne, Black Sabbath Frontman Who Purportedly Bit the Head Off a Bat, Is Betting Fans Will Be Hungry for His New NFTs

Latest prices

Bitcoin (BTC): $47,735, -6.8%Ether (ETH): $3,823, -6.6%S&P 500: -0.1%Gold: $1,807, -0.1%10-year Treasury yield closed at 1.482%, up 0.003 percentage point.

CoinDesk 20

Here are the biggest gainers and losers among the CoinDesk 20 digital assets, over the past 24 hours.

Biggest gainers:

There are no gainers in CoinDesk 20 today.

Biggest losers:


Internet Computer

Smart Contract Platform


Sector classifications are provided via the Digital Asset Classification Standard (DACS), developed by CoinDesk Indices to provide a reliable, comprehensive and standardized classification system for digital assets. The CoinDesk 20 is a ranking of the largest digital assets by volume on trusted exchanges.

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