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The Biggest Moments in Crypto from 2021

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After more than a decade of fits and starts followed by explosive, undeniable growth, 2021 was arguably the year that cryptocurrency became a household name. The Staples Center in Los Angeles became the Arena. The Miami Heat now play at the FTX Arena. FTX also signed a long-term partnership with Major League Baseball. As the year comes to a close, it’s only fitting to take a look back on some of the biggest (for better or worse) moments in crypto.

Bitcoin Stages a Major Comeback

February - After a two-day sell-off in January of 2021 wiped out over $100 billion from the entire crypto market, Bitcoin and other currencies came roaring back in February, with Bitcoin in particular soaring to a market capitalization of $1 trillion and breaking through a per-coin valuation of $58,000. Bitcoin saw a staggering 60% increase in value in the month of February alone, which was greatly aided at least in part by Elon Musk announcing that Tesla had invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin, and Mastercard’s announcements that it would allow customers to use some cryptocurrencies on their networks. February’s dramatic growth would be a harbinger of positive developments to come in the remainder of the year.

Coinbase Goes Public

April 14th - In what was accurately dubbed a “watershed moment for the crypto industry” Coinbase, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, became an official public company on April 14th, 2021, eschewing the traditional IPO and instead opting for a direct listing under the ticker COIN. Nasdaq assigned Coinbase a reference price of $250 a share, and it opened at $381, closing its first day at $328. This recognition from the New York Stock Exchange could certainly be viewed as legitimacy and validation for the entire blockchain industry, and signaled crypto’s potential as the future of modern finance.

Imposters Scam $2 Million in Crypto, Claiming to Be Elon Musk

May 17th - In a report released by the Federal Trade Commission on May 17th, details emerged that investors lost $2 million in six months to imposters claiming to be Elon Musk as part of a fraudulent pitch to fund a fictitious money-making venture. According to the commission, nearly 7,000 investors lost a median amount of $1,900 (part of a staggering $80 million in total losses worldwide) from October 2020 to March 2021 from scams targeting cryptocurrency investors. The massive uptick in cases claiming fraud (to the tune of 1,000% in one year), came with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin soaring in value. Staying vigilant against crypto scams is necessary for any investor, so be sure to reference CoinFlip’s guide of best practices for avoiding such fraud.

Largest Bitcoin Conference in the World Held in Miami

June 5th - After the 2020 event held by Bitcoin Magazine had been postponed, Bitcoin 2021 commenced on June 5th, with 12,000 people descending on Miami to participate in the largest Bitcoin conference in the world. The event was held during the brief period when both cases and Coronavirus-related anxiety were down in the United States before the fall brought us two new variants and their associated repercussions. Bitcoin 2021, of which CoinFlip was an official sponsor, was reported to be the first major in-person conference since the pandemic began. It was a milestone event, with the New York Times reporting its demonstrative symbolism that the “world of digital currencies was inching its way toward mainstream acceptance, or at least mainstream curiosity.”

El Salvador Becomes the First Country to Adopt Bitcoin as Currency

September 7th - In a bold step forward, El Salvador became the first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender for any transaction. The decision was hailed as visionary by the crypto community and criticized as bordering on autocratic by international leaders, but it showed El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele’s eye towards the future and digital savvy. Bukele pitched the move as a way to bring more Salvadorans into the economy, as 70% of the nation’s residents are un-banked. To spearhead this push, the government launched a digital wallet, called “Chivo,” which is Salvadoran slang for “cool”, and will pay a $30 Bitcoin bonus to Salvadorans who download it. Time will tell how this national experiment bears out, but it was certainly an exciting development for crypto on the international stage. For more on this historic measure, CoinFlip’s own Ben Weiss broke down the decision earlier this year.

China Bans Cryptocurrency

September 24th - In September, ten of China's most powerful regulatory agencies intensified a crackdown on cryptocurrencies that had begun in May, with a blanket ban on all crypto transactions and mining, causing crypto prices to temporarily drop. The move was purported by the government to be part of a larger effort to excavate and eliminate “illegal” cryptocurrency activity. The initial measure in May banned Chinese financial and payment institutions from providing services related to cryptocurrency transactions. This crackdown took more than half the world’s miners offline virtually overnight. As of earlier this month, however, data shows that Bitcoin mining has completely recovered from those losses, thanks in large part to a dramatic increase in mining operations relocating to North America.

Bitcoin Hits an All-Time High

November 9th - Following months of steady gains after downturns earlier in the year, Bitcoin rose above $68,000 on November 9th, surpassing its previous record set in late October. The native currency of Ethereum, ether, also set a record high that day, eclipsing $4,800 for the first time in its history. These massive gains signaled a larger rally in the entire cryptocurrency market, which hit a staggering $3 trillion that week, tripling in value in 9 months.

SEC Chairman Gary Gensler Calls for Investor Protections in Crypto

December 5th - United States Securities Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler raised concerns about crypto markets at an Investor Advisory Committee earlier this month. The Committee, which was established by Section 911 of the Dodd-Frank Act, is tasked with advising the SEC on regulatory priorities, including “initiatives to protect investor interests and to promote investor confidence and the integrity of the securities marketplace.” During his speech, Gensler cited Satoshi Nakamoto’s famous Bitcoin white paper, having commended the pseudonymous Nakamoto as recently as August for creating, “a catalyst for change in the fields of finance and money.” He made mostly value-neutral assessments before sharing concerns regarding the crypto markets. Gensler told the Investor Advisory Committee: “This is an asset class that belongs inside public policy frameworks of looking after investors, guarding against illicit activity, and protecting our financial stability.” He went on: “Right now, we just don’t have enough investor protection in crypto...The American public is buying, selling, and lending crypto on trading, lending, and decentralized finance (defi) platforms, where there are significant gaps in investor protection.” He stressed that such vulnerabilities leave markets open to manipulation, thereby leaving investors likewise vulnerable. Ultimately, the attention of the SEC gestures towards the rapidly-increasing popularity and recognized legitimacy of cryptocurrency, and one can only expect more where that came from in 2022.

Final Thoughts

In a remarkable year for crypto, CoinFlip has a great deal of growth to be proud of as well. We now have more than 200 employees on our team and even with 3,400 ATMs in 48 states across the United States, we remain focused on providing the best customer service in the industry. We thank you for helping us remain the #1 Crypto ATM company in the United States, thereby propelling our mission to provide financial sovereignty to all of our customers through our commitment to industry-leading transparency. Cheers to 2022!