The year in data: 5 charts that show how crypto changed in 2023

After a tumultuous 2022 for the crypto industry, 2023 provided some much-needed relief for its participants.

From GBTC’s narrowing discount to Binance’s loss of market share, a USDC squeeze, the rise of Bitcoin NFTs and the crypto market recovery, here are five charts to show how the industry changed last year.

GBTC’s narrowing discount to NAV

The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) discount fell to its lowest level in over two years following Grayscale Investments’ victory in August against the Securities and Exchange Commission over the conversion of its flagship GBTC product to a spot bitcoin ETF.

The GBTC discount to net asset value (NAV) — meaning how much lower the market price of each share is than the value of the bitcoin it represents — is trading below 10% for the first time since July 2021. 

GBTC trades at a discount as the shares currently cannot be redeemed, so the only option is to sell them to other prospective buyers. However, it historically traded at a premium until 2021’s crypto credit crunch.

The narrowing trend — seeing the discount shrink from over 40% before BlackRock and others filed spot bitcoin ETF applications in June — is likely a sign of increased optimism the SEC will approve a spot bitcoin ETF in the U.S., including the potential conversion of GBTC. 

GBTC is up over 320% in a year compared to bitcoin’s 160%, according to TradingView.

Binance’s declining market share

Binance had a disastrous 2023 on the legal and regulatory front.

In November, U.S. authorities, including the Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission settled with Binance, concluding a criminal investigation into allegations of money laundering and sanctions violations — marking one of the largest corporate settlements in U.S. history. The settlement involved $4.3 billion in penalties and included criminal charges against its former CEO Changpeng Zhao. Zhao agreed to step down as CEO as part of a plea deal with the DOJ. Zhao pleaded guilty to violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and will pay a $50 million fine, with his sentencing hearing set for February. 

In the U.S., the SEC also filed a lawsuit against Binance in June, alleging it had violated U.S. securities laws, which the regulator argues should result in prohibiting the company and Zhao from doing further business in the U.S. The civil suit followed a similar one filed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in March.

In Europe, Binance announced it was exiting the Netherlands after failing to acquire regulatory approval. It also applied to deregister its local entity in Cyprus and is reportedly under investigation in France for alleged money laundering.

Binance.US cut staff numbers in the wake of the SEC’s suit against the company, which also saw its business shrink with the firm’s customers no longer able to use U.S. dollars to purchase crypto on the platform. In September, the firm laid off one-third of its remaining employees, with Binance.US president and CEO Brian Shroder also exiting the company amid uncertainty and declining business.

Binance itself reportedly laid off at least 1,500 staff and made headlines last year for high-profile executive exits, including global head of product Mayur Kamat, Asia-Pacific head Leon Foong, chief strategy officer Patrick Hillman, general counsel Hon Ng and chief business officer Yibo Ling.

As a result, Binance’s market share among non-USD exchanges slipped from over 70% at the start of 2023 to around 46% by the end of it, according to The Block’s data dashboard.

USDC gets squeezed

USDC, issued by Circle, started 2023 with a 32% share of the stablecoin market, according to The Block’s data. That amounted t0 $48.1 billion of the $153.1 billion total supply on Jan. 1, with the Tether-issued USDT at 50% ($75.7 billion) and the decentralized DAI stablecoin the third largest at 4% ($5.8 billion).

Fast forward to March, and USDC significantly depegged from the U.S. dollar — dropping to as low as $0.88 following Circle’s announcement of holding $3.3 billion in reserves at the failed Silicon Valley Bank. The disclosure prompted a significant sell-off, with investors turning to other stablecoins, like Tether’s USDT, or exiting the crypto market entirely — leading to a 15% drop in USDC’s market cap in just 24 hours. The situation was further complicated by major exchanges like Coinbase and Binance halting USDC conversions amidst the turmoil.

Since then, USDC’s market share has continued to be squeezed, falling to $26.2 billion (19%) of the now $138.8 billion total stablecoin supply as holders either reallocated to other crypto assets or exited into fiat last year.

USDT strengthened its domination both in terms of percentage and value, reaching 71% of the market with $98.6 billion of the supply. DAI has remained relatively flat, while new entrant First Digital USD (FDUSD) picked up $1.8 billion, or 1.3% of the market from a standing start. Binance encouraged its users to convert to FDUSD in August amid a phase out of support for Binance USD (BUSD) after issuer Paxos halted the minting of new BUSD tokens earlier in 2023.

Bitcoin helps subdued NFT sector make a comeback

Bitcoin was not previously known for its NFTs, with users preferring blockchains more suitable for trading and minting the assets, such as Ethereum and Solana. That was until Ordinals exploded onto the scene last year, making it easier and cheaper to post fully on-chain NFTs on the blockchain.

The Bitcoin Ordinals protocol, launched in January 2023 by Casey Rodarmor, offers a new way to store and trade digital content on Bitcoin. By utilizing satoshis, the smallest units of bitcoin, users can engrave NFTs, BRC-20 tokens and other arbitrary data directly onto the blockchain, with each piece becoming a unique, tradeable asset.

While the terms “Ordinals” and “inscriptions” are often used interchangeably, an ordinal is technically a unique serialized identifier for a single satoshi, and an inscription is the content or data attached to that specific satoshi.

Inscriptions have also been spreading to other chains in recent weeks, including Ethereum, Solana, Near, Polygon, Celo and Fantom, causing a spike in transactions amid an ongoing debate over the use of inscriptions. Some see them as “spam” to be eradicated while others see inscriptions as a legitimate use case that can help Bitcoin’s long-term security by increasing the transaction fee share for miners compared to diminishing block rewards.

Transactions on the Bitcoin network surged at various points last year, coinciding with pick-ups in inscriptions-related activity, reaching an all-time high of 633,000 average daily transactions in December, with NFT trade volume mirroring the impact.

NFT trade volumes had been on the slide since February, with overall bounces coinciding with increases in activity on Bitcoin. The latest surge in demand for inscriptions saw this metric reach yearly highs in mid-December, with Bitcoin-based NFTs accounting for around 59% of the $518 million in peak weekly NFT trading volume.

The crypto market bounces back

After the trials and tribulations of a tumultuous 2022 for the crypto market, it ended 2023 in a much better place. Bitcoin gained around 160% since starting 2023 at $16,600, according to The Block’s price data. Ether lagged behind the number one cryptocurrency by market cap since March but is still up around 94% from $1,200 one year ago.

While the DeFi sector got off to a good start in 2023, it underperformed both bitcoin and ether since the spring. However, it still closed out the year with around 67% gains.

Solana was the biggest winner among the top ten cryptocurrencies by market cap, up nearly 1,000% from less than $10 on Jan. 1, 2023.

With anticipation over potential approval of a spot bitcoin ETF and the upcoming Bitcoin halving event, there will certainly be much more to talk about in 2024.

Disclaimer: The Block is an independent media outlet that delivers news, research, and data. As of November 2023, Foresight Ventures is a majority investor of The Block. Foresight Ventures invests in other companies in the crypto space. Crypto exchange Bitget is an anchor LP for Foresight Ventures. The Block continues to operate independently to deliver objective, impactful, and timely information about the crypto industry. Here are our current financial disclosures.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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