The first three months of 2021 have seen the crypto market enveloped by a powerful bull run that has sent asset values in the space surging.
Bitcoin, the original crypto, has been the poster child for this digital asset boom, with its value having increased by almost 100% since that start of the year to over US$50,000 following a whopping 277% surge over 2020.
Bitcoin’s ascent has been attributed to support from several notable sources, particularly () boss Elon Musk and payments giant Inc (), which earlier this month rolled out a crypto payments capability for its customers.
However, a rising tide lifts all boats, with several altcoins (non-Bitcoin cryptos) having also made a strong start to the year that investors may want to keep an eye on into the second quarter of the year.
Given its prominence as the second-most famous cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, Ether, the token used by the smart contracts blockchain platform Ethereum, has seen a strong increase in value over the first months of 2021 strongly correlated with its more famous peer.
Since the start of the year, the value of an Ether token has surged around 143% to US$1,804 at time of writing.
The coin was given another boost in late March after card payment firm Inc () said it will now allow payments to be settled using crypto on the Ethereum blockchain.
Unlike Ether, Dogecoin was pretty much unknown to the wider market due to its obscure status and comparatively tiny value until it exploded into the headlines in late January.
As with many dramatic events in the crypto markets, Elon Musk was seen as the prime instigator of the Dogecoin buying frenzy after cryptically tweeting a series of statements and memes that appeared to indicate his support for the altcoin, which until then had been considered by many to be nothing more than a joke.
However, Dogecoin and its early backers appear to have had the last laugh, with the price so far this year having rocketed 1,028% to dizzying highs of US$0.05.
Another token making waves in the early months of 2021 is Uniswap, which powers a protocol that is designed to make it easy to exchange crypto on the Ethereum blockchain.
At the time of writing, Uniswap is one of the leading decentralised exchange and automated market makers in the industry, with the token’s value having increased around 488% to US$27.70.
A potential inflexion point for Uniswap is the third version of the protocol, due to launch on May 5, which the protocol’s designers say will make it the most flexible and capital-efficient automated market maker ever designed.
Cryptos are also starting to make their way into the entertainment and gaming industries. One of the more famous examples of this is Decentraland, a blockchain platform that allows users to buy, build, and monetise virtual reality (VR) applications.
Users of Decentraland can purchase virtual ‘land’ on the platform and use it to create apps and digital environments that they own and control.
The token used on the Decentraland platform, known as MANA, has seen perhaps one of the most dramatic ascents in value since the start of the year, rocketing 1,255% to US$1.03 since January 1.
Decentraland was given a boost in early March when Atari, the veteran video game developer behind retro classics such as Pacman and Pong, announced that it is planning to launch a cryptocurrency-based casino on the platform later this year.
The virtual casino, named “Vegas City”, will include Atari-themed games and Atari-based nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and is scheduled for launch in May with bets expected to reach US$150mln in 2021 before rising to US$400mln over two years.