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The “Coinbase Effect” is back with a bang

Tim Copeland


The “Coinbase Effect” is back.

The term describes what happens when the price of a cryptocurrency goes stark, raving mad moments after it’s been listed on the San Francisco-based crypto exchange Coinbase. Though Coinbase isn’t the biggest exchange by volume—that would be Binance—it has enormous visibility, and respectability, especially among U.S. retail investors.

And something about being listed on that exchange makes even a centralized altcoin look tempting to the eyes of the 15-million-plus users Coinbase has in 190 countries around the world.

The most recent beneficiary of the Effect? Chainlink, a low-capped (until now) and relatively unknown cryptocurrency, whose price surged after landing on Coinbase last week: LINK was worth just over $2 before its listing was announced. By yesterday it had doubled, peaking at  $4.40.

The Coinbase Effect first became apparent in 2017, five years after its launch, when the exchange listed Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin. Both coins prices doubled after getting listed on Coinbase—coining the phrase.

That isn’t to say that the Coinbase Effect always works. During the Crypto Winter of 2018, new listings on the retail-investor-friendly exchange didn’t always move the needle. When XRP was finally added to Coinbase on February 28, it saw zero price action—if anything, it went slightly down. And the Basic Attention Token (BAT) was added on November 8, only to see a 20 percent drop in price; Zcash’s price also fell by 17 percent, on November 29. On the other hand, both Ethereum Classic and ZRX saw pumps that year following listings.

So, what was different?

For a start, the market was on a year-long downtrend. Investors were watching their money disappear and interest start to wane. It’s also possible that the coins were fairly well-established at the time, with Zcash a top-twenty coin by market cap and BAT getting a lot of headlines for its use in the Brave browser.

In this case, with Chainlink, it was a coin that very few had heard about—”decentralized oracle providers” not being the buzzwords on everyone’s lips—and the market conditions were far more positive. The price on bitcoin had been on a roll leading up to the listing, having grown from $4,000 to breach $11,000 in just three months. Chainlink had also just scored a couple of partnerships with Oracle and Google, which can’t have hindered its momentum.

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With that in mind, if market conditions stay positive, what might be the next altcoin to make a dent on Coinbase?

In December, the exchange announced it was looking into a number of crypto assets, with many of the new coins coming out of that list. Out of the remaining coins, there are some that look unlikely, like KIN—with the fact it’s taking on the SEC almost single handedly.

On the other hand, it has added a few to Coinbase Pro, which could make their way to the main retail exchange, (called, simply, Coinbase) at any time. On this list are Civic, District0x, Golem, Loom, Decentraland, Maker, Augur and Zilliqa. Many of these fit the bill for being relatively unheard of and have low market caps.

But can anyone really predict what Coinbase is going to do next?