To say 2021 was a crazy year for cryptocurrencies is an understatement.
Bitcoin soared to new highs but also achieved full legitimacy in one country. Meanwhile, meme tokens like shiba inu and dogecoin went from being jokes to delivering mind-blowing gains. The number of cryptos ballooned to more than 16,000, and the overall market cap hit $3 trillion at one point.
In other parts of the space, a non-fungible token stunned the art world when it fetched a staggering $69 million to become the most expensive work of digital art in history.
Insider takes a look back at the top five wildest crypto moments in 2021:
El Salvador made bitcoin legal tender
No one thought it would happen — until it did. Nayib Bukele, El Salvador’s 40-year-old president, first floated the idea of making bitcoin legal tender in June during the Bitcoin 2021 Conference in Miami. He said he hoped introducing bitcoin would be the catalyst for El Salvador’s shift from being a developing country to becoming an industrialized, advanced nation.
Just days after, a resolution dubbed Bitcoin Law was approved in June by a supermajority. Then, in September, El Salvador became the first country in the world to make bitcoin legal tender, elevating it to the same status as the US dollar, which replaced the colon in 2001 as the local currency.
Dogecoin cracked the top 10 biggest cryptos
Dogecoin started as a joke in 2013. But today, the joke is on all investors who doubted the meme token. The shiba-inu-themed coin muscled its way to the top 10 cryptos by market cap in 2021, thanks in part to random boosts from staunch advocates such as Elon Musk.
The coin’s transformation has been astonishing. At present, dogecoin is the most searched crypto on Google and can even be used to buy certain things, including some Tesla merchandise and an AMC gift card.
Shiba inu surpassed dogecoin
Riding on the back of dogecoin’s popularity is a spin-off that achieved even more dizzying heights. Shiba inu, the self-proclaimed dogecoin killer, vaulted out of nowhere and at one point surpassed dogecoin’s market cap to join the top 10. It’s now $18 billion, trailing dogecoin’s $23 billion.
Shiba inu, created in August 2020, saw an astronomical rally thanks in large part to its Shib Army, an overenthusiastic group of investors backing the token. In fact, shiba inu’s price rocketed 44,540,000% this year, while dogecoin surged about 3,600%.
An NFT sold for $69 million
In March, artist Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, sold the most expensive work of digital art in history. His “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” NFT, which comprises 5,000 days of work, fetched a whopping $69.3 million at auction. He told Insider he did not really think much of it; he just kept producing art.
The mania behind this staggering purchase is emblematic of the surge in popularity of NFTs, digital representations of artwork tied to a blockchain, typically on ethereum. When people buy NFTs, they gain the rights to the unique token on the blockchain, making these next to impossible to alter.
A bunch of randos almost bought the Constitution
A decentralized autonomous organization — essentially a group of internet friends with a common goal — raised around $46 million in November to buy an extremely rare print of the US Constitution. It may have sounded absurd, but the DAO actually came close to winning the Sotheby’s auction until Citadel CEO Ken Griffin dashed their hopes and bought it for himself.
ConstitutionDAO, the loosely organized group of around 17,000 people, still made headlines for the attempt. And while the DAO disbanded after losing the bid, it did lay bare the power of decentralization.