Analysis

Q1 2021 Quarterly Cryptocurrency Report

by Erina Azmi -

Hey there, Geckos!

Q1 2021 was filled with breakthrough events in the entire history of crypto to date. An array of achievements were unlocked across various sectors of cryptocurrency as we breached the $2 trillion market cap:

  1. Coinbase went public on Nasdaq starting 14th April 2021
  2. Tesla holds Bitcoin as an investment asset and accepts it as a medium of exchange
  3. Fidelity’s plan on Bitcoin ETF
  4. Visa enabling USDC as a settlement on Ethereum
  5. An NFT was sold for $69 million 
  6. The awakening of Multi-Chains as a response to high gas fees on Ethereum. 

The list is non-exhaustive and with this, we believe the cryptocurrency industry will finally experience a wide-scale retail adoption by the end of this year. 

Whether you enter through DeFi or NFT, we want to welcome all new users to crypto. Make yourself at home and let us together continue to watch how 2021 is going to unfold. 

Here are our 10 key crypto-highlights for Q1  2021:

  1. Cryptocurrency Market Capitalization broke past $2 trillion 
  2. Bitcoin continues to soar as it broke its previous ATH to $61,315 in March 2021
  3. Alternative L1 tokens outperformed Bitcoin and Ethereum – led by BNB
  4. In Q1 2021 alone, CAKE and LUNA rose up to 2,900% return
  5. BSC’s TVL three-fold to $20 billion within 3 months
  6. PancakeSwap became the second-largest DEX ending March 2021 (it flipped Uniswap in April 2021!)
  7. FRAX, UST, and sUSD are the known successful algo-stablecoins
  8. NFT flipped DeFi in term of GoogleTrend
  9. Total NFT art trading volume 1,281X compared to a year ago
  10. CEXs spot trading volume recorded $1.44 trillion, 59% of which belongs to Binance


1. Cryptocurrency Market Capitalization broke past $2 trillion 

At the end of Q1 2021, the crypto market cap hit $1.9 trillion dollars – a 146% growth, up from $780 billion. 57% of the market capitalization belongs to Bitcoin.

2. Bitcoin continues to soar as it broke its previous ATH to $62,907 in April 2021

In this quarter alone, Bitcoin recorded multiple All-Time-Highs and it just hit $64,787 on 14th April 2021.

Exactly a year ago on that day, Bitcoin crashed 40% intraday to $5,413. It has grown 1,097% since then.

The bull case is fueled largely by institutions:

  1. Coinbase’s Nasdaq listing on April 14th 2021
  2. Visa enabling USDC as settlement on Ethereum
  3. Tesla holds Bitcoin as an investment asset and accepts it as a medium of exchange
  4. Fidelity’s plan on a BTC ETF
  5. Grayscale’s plan to offer Crypto ETFs


3. Alternative Layer 1 tokens outperformed Bitcoin and Ethereum – led by BNB

In Q1 2021, Bitcoin and Ethereum underperformed compared to their competing networks. 

Binance Coin (BNB) had the best performance with a 710% gain, followed by Cardano (ADA) and Polkadot (DOT) at 555% and 294% respectively.

4. In Q1 2021 alone, CAKE and LUNA rose up to 2,900% return

Out of the top 5 DeFi tokens, Terra (LUNA) experienced the highest growth in the first quarter, recording a 2,761% increase over the 3-month period. 

Notably, the Centralized Exchange (CEX) and Decentralized Exchange (DEX) categories are showing strengthening signs ahead of the Coinbase public listing in April 2021. Uniswap managed to claim the number 1 spot for the market cap in both DeFi and DEX categories. 

However, PancakeSwap (CAKE) has surged to more than 28X its value since the start of 2021.

5. BSC’s TVL three-fold to $20 billion within 3 months, CAKE leading the way

Decentralized Finance (DeFi) on Binance Smart Chain (BSC) has expanded significantly, with close to $20 billion in Total Value Locked (TVL) on 1st April 2021.

DEXs continue to be the major pillars of the space. PancakeSwap is the leading DEX on BSC and has surpassed a total market cap of $2.5 billion

While there are clear market cap leaders in both lending and DEX categories, it is still a close race between yield aggregators.

6. PancakeSwap became the second-largest DEX ending March 2021 (flipped Uniswap in April 2021!)

DEXs saw a net increase in its spot trading volume by 250% (+$75 billion) to $104 billion.

PancakeSwap and Uniswap are the main drivers of the growth, equally accounting for 70% (+$52 billion) of the volume increase.

Although the DEX grew, Tokenlon saw its volume declined marginally by $620 million from December 2020 to March 2021.

In terms of dominance, only Pancakeswap (25%), Bancor (3%), and Terraswap (1%) managed to increase their market share.

In fact, Uniswap is losing its foothold as the “King of DEXs” to PancakeSwap which coincides with the rise of BSC as the cheaper alternative to Ethereum.

7. UST, FRAX, and sUSD are the known successful algo-stablecoins

The total market capitalization for these six coins amounted to $2.23 billion, with TerraUSD (UST) commanding the lion’s share of the market at $1.6 billion (72.8%). Ampleforth (AMPL) is in 2nd place with a market cap of $250 million (11.2%) while sUSD (SUSD) is 3rd with $224 million (10.0%). Newcomer, Frax (FRAX) has a comparatively modest market cap of $113 million (5.1%).

Although AMPL has been around since 2019, it has yet to stabilize its price at $1 through its rebase-type model. Nevertheless, it has clearly outperformed its Seigniorage peers, outside of FRAX, UST, and sUSD.

Impressively, throughout the 3-month period, FRAX and UST have maintained their peg as their price has an average deviation of less than 0.5% ($1.001 vs. $1.005, respectively). Meanwhile, sUSD deviated 1% on average. 

8. NFT flipped DeFi in term of Google Trends

At the start of the year, for every search of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT), there were 8 searches for DeFi. By early March, NFT finally flipped DeFi. 

At the end of March, the search ratio reached 4:1.

Search interest levels for ‘NFT’ reached its All-Time-High of 100 on 12 March 2021. This coincides with the day right after Beeple sold his art piece ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’ for $69 million dollars.

9. Total NFT art trading volume 1,281X compared to a year ago

Art marketplaces’ trading volumes were relatively even until Gemini’s acquisition of Nifty Gateway in November 2020. From then onwards, Nifty Gateway dominated the market with a 70% market share by the end of March 2021.

At the same time, the total art trading volume amounted to $205 million, which is more than both OpenSea and Rarible combined. 

10. CEXs spot trading volume recorded $1.44 trillion, 59% of which belongs to Binance

CEXs increased 201% in spot trading volume, ending the quarter with $1.44 trillion.

Binance is the major contributor to the increase, accounting for 59% (+$571 billion) of the quarter’s increase. This is followed by Huobi (15%), and OKEx (11%)

In terms of dominance, Binance and Kucoin are the only CEXs who saw their market share increase.

Binance further cemented its dominance, rising from 46% to 55%.

Final Thoughts

… and that’s a wrap!

Q1 2021 has been a wild ride as we witnessed multiple emerging trends along with the institutional switching into a higher gear powering into the crypto space and making their presence known. 

Keep your seat belts buckled - this is only the beginning of the journey before we see the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies.


This is just a fraction of what we cover in our report - Grab your own copy of the full report: 

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Erina Azmi

Erina Azmi

Erina is CoinGecko’s market research analyst. Current expertise is finance and crypto - DeFi. Previously in research consulting and often did market analysis.

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