Digital Asset Insights #25
Diamond auctioned for $12 million worth of crypto at Sotheby’s
The famous auction house, Sotheby, announced early last week that it had sold a diamond worth $12 million, and its buyer paid in an unspecified cryptocurrency. The diamond is the second-largest pear-shaped diamond, tagged Key 101.38, to be sold in public, according to the firm. The auction house declined to release information about the buyer, however, available information shows that the buyer paid with an undisclosed crypto asset. Sotheby had made the news earlier in the year with its revelation that it was going to start accepting payments in crypto assets. According to Sotheby’s announcement, the Key 101.38 diamond was discovered to be a Type IIa diamond—a rare type that is often classified to be the most chemically pure type of diamond. It was delivered to the buyer with a “certificate of authenticity” and a monograph. The diamond’s catalog states, “Accompanied by a GIA report no. 6193169635, stating that the diamond is D Colour, Flawless; also accompanied by a diamond type classification letter stating that the diamond is determined to be a Type IIa diamond. Type IIa diamonds are the most chemically pure type of diamond and often have exceptional optical transparency. The GIA report is further accompanied by a monograph.”
The auctioned-off Key 101.38 diamond holds the distinguished record of being the most expensive physical object ever purchased with crypto. Meantime, the record for the most expensive product ever paid for with cryptocurrency still belongs to Beeple, whose digital artwork minted into the NFT entitled “The First 5000 Days” was sold for $69 million. This sale made Beeple one of the top three most expensive living artists. Crypto is finding use cases in art, and while many would think crypto-use cases would be limited to the financial sector alone, many in the art industry have left them in their wake. Art dealers are now finding a use for crypto within their space, and with the advent of non-fungible tokens and the acceptance of crypto payments by various artists and auction houses, the space is rapidly enjoying the benefits that come with the crypto space.
UK watchdog shifts Bitcoin ads regulation to ‘red alert’ priority
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Britain’s marketing regulator, has announced that it plans to increase its efforts to put a halt to irresponsible or misleading cryptocurrency ads, the Financial Times reported at the beginning of last week. Miles Lockwood, who is the director of complaints and investigations at the ASA, told the outlet, “We see this as an absolutely crucial and priority area for us. Where we do find problems, we will crack down hard and fast.” The regulator now classifies crypto-related advertisements as a “red alert” priority and will begin issuing warnings to related companies, Lockwood added. As an example, he said that some digital asset ads will immediately begin requiring special disclaimers. This, of course, will be an expansion of regulatory reach upon Bitcoin, and per the report, crypto-related firms will face a high-degree of scrutiny when it comes to crypto ads. He noted this will particularly affect crypto websites and social media platforms. Prior to this, the ASA’s regulatory actions were based almost exclusively on customer complaints. Now it plans to employ techniques such as web scraping and artificial intelligence analysis to identify suspicious ads. Louise Maroney, the financial complaints lead at the ASA, stated, “We do recognize that there are some types of media that we haven’t been able to address fully until now.” The London-based crypto services firm Luno came under fire from the ASA about a month ago when the firm’s Bitcoin ad campaign had contained slogans such as, “If you’re seeing Bitcoin on the Underground, it’s time to buy.”
In late May, the ASA deemed Luno’s ads misleading and irresponsible because they “suggested that engaging in Bitcoin investment through Luno was straightforward and easy.” At that time, Luno CEI Marcus Swanepoel had made the argument that Britain’s regulatory framework was too uncertain and could end-up actually harming even those crypto-related firms that were doing their best to comply. He stated, “Honestly, we were under the impression that these ads were OK.” The ASA had also banned another Bitcoin ad in a newspaper in mid-March, arguing in like fashion that it was misleading and promoted crypto in a socially irresponsible manner.
$250 million worth of cryptocurrency seized in UK
In a similar “sign of the times” report, UK Police seized crypto worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the biggest-ever move of its kind. The London Metropolitan Police announced early on Tuesday of last week that they had confiscated $250 million worth of cryptocurrency and that this was the biggest such move of its kind, breaking last month’s $180 million-seizure-record set by local authorities. Both seizures were made by detectives from the Met’s Economic Crime Command after they had received intelligence about the transfer of criminal assets. This was part of an ongoing investigation into international money laundering. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty said in a statement, “The detectives on this case have worked tirelessly and meticulously to trace millions of pounds worth of cryptocurrency suspected of being linked to criminality and now being laundered to hide the trail. As digital platforms develop, we’re increasingly seeing organized criminals using cryptocurrency to launder their dirty money.” What’s behind this seeming cryptocurrency game? The accused is a 39-year-old woman who had been arrested late in June on suspicion of money laundering offenses. She was later released on bail, and then interrogated early last week in connection with the current $250 million illicit stash of cryptocurrency. These events come on the back of a wider crackdown on cryptocurrencies by UK authorities as stated in the above article. Meantime, the UK bank Barclays banned all transactions to and from the crypto exchange Binance earlier this month.
Bitcoin, Ethereum peer-to-peer volumes in Nigeria continue surging
Nigeria has recorded tremendous growth in its crypto P2P trade volume even though their government had imposed restrictions on the sector, and despite the crypto ban in Nigeria, the country has recorded massive growth in bitcoin trade volumes recently. In the month of June, data has revealed that Nigeria’s citizens had traded around $38 million worth of digital assets, and this is the second time the country has recorded volume above $35 million. The first time was in March, when the country had over $38 million worth of transactions. As the available data indicates, the months of April and May saw trades of $35.2 million and $34.9 million. The lowest trading volume recorded happened in the month of February, and even then, $31 million worth of the crypto assets were traded. This indicates that the country’s interest in crypto has continued to grow despite the ban imposed on trading by the apex bank of the country. The Central bank of Nigeria ordered all financial institutions within the country to stop offering their services to crypto-related firms, and then threatened defaulters with sanctions if they failed to comply with the policy. To their chagrin, citizens of the country have sought alternative ways of accessing the crypto industry and have consistently recorded growth in trading volumes. The report also showed that other countries on the African continent are also growing massively in the crypto space. Kenya is the second African country to record massive trading volume, and although its volume dropped to around $13 million in June, this was the first month in which its upward trajectory had declined. The country trade volume had been positive for most of 2021. As well, Ghana trade volume has usurped that of South Africa, and the west African country saw its volume reach double figures for the month of June, making it 3rd on the list. South Africa now ranks as the fourth on the African continent with a trading volume of $7.7 million.
Gold bug Peter Schiff reveals the price he would buy Bitcoin (BTC) at
Known for his hatred of Bitcoin, Gold bug Peter Schiff gave a recent interview to Anthony Pompliano, and he finally divulged what it would take for him to buy into the leading cryptocurrency. Although much of the crypto community dumps on Schiff, his views on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) have a ring of common sense about them, and this is where his opinions have something in common with many crypto advocates. The primary tenet of MMT asserts that governments can and should print as much money as they want because they cannot become insolvent. In other words, governments can extend the public debt to infinity. With the state of the world over the past 18 months or so, this is a policy that many governments have adopted, particularly the U.S government. Schiff has warned that continuing down this path will exacerbate economic imbalances which will lead us all into an economic collapse. History shows money printing will only lead to inflation, which he calls a tax onto itself. During the interview, he stated, “We’ve had plenty of examples in history where currencies have been destroyed based on what they now call Modern Monetary Theory. The whole idea that you could print all this money and not have inflation…printing money is inflation, so by definition, you’re creating inflation.” When it comes to protecting oneself from this inevitable calamity, here’s where Bitcoin advocates and Schiff differ greatly. Schiff opposes Bitcoin because he thinks it’s an unreliable store of wealth and also lacks inherent value. He said, “Money needs to be a commodity. It needs to have actual value unto itself, not just the uses and means of exchange.” This is a view he maintains across all cryptocurrencies, not just Bitcoin. However, he believes there is an exception to this rule in the form of gold-backed cryptocurrency. “If you have a digital currency that’s backed by gold and redeemable in gold, well then that’s fine, that’s great, I think that would work perfectly.”
When quizzed on what it would take for him to buy Bitcoin, Schiff said that at current prices, he wouldn’t want to waste his money. “Right now, they’re like $33,000/$34,000, I wouldn’t want to waste $34,000 on a Bitcoin. I could buy a lot of other things with that money.” Schiff added that if the price of Bitcoin fell to less than $1, he might take the plunge and finally buy BTC. “I mean, I suppose if the price got cheap enough, maybe if it got back below a buck, maybe I could buy one, I don’t know.” Ending speculation as to whether or not he’s a convert to Bitcoin at $1, he said he’s not interested even at that price. His reason? Unlike gold, Bitcoin is not a commodity.
Bitcoin, Dogecoin, all coins fall amid sudden crypto market pullback
The crypto market took a turn for the worse during the middle of last week, as literally all top 100 cryptocurrencies—except stablecoins— plunged into the red zone across the board. By Thursday morning, Bitcoin (BTC) had slipped below the 32,000-mark, trading at around 31,900, down 3.5%, according to the crypto metrics platform CoinGecko. The second-largest token by market capitalization, Ethereum (ETH), dropped even more than that, as the price dipped below the important psychological level of $2,000, retreating back to $1,890. The token was down 6.1% over the preceding 24 hours and was facing a weekly decline of 18.6%. Did I hear someone say bloodbath? Other digital assets among the top ten were all showing similar results. All of the following had lost over 5% of their value during this same 24-hour period: Binance Coin ($293.9, -6.0%), Cardano ($1.22, -7.0%), Ripple’s XRP ($0.599, -6.1%), Dogecoin ($0.188, -6.7%), and Polkadot ($13.39, -9.2%). Despite their strong rally over the prior two weeks, decentralized finance (DeFi) tokens were following the remainder of the crypto market, and the sector was down 6.96% and had lost 16.93% over the week, according to CryptoSlate’s DeFi Coins chart.
Popular DeFi tokens are either already posting two-digit losses or are getting dangerously close to that mark. Uniswap was at $17.12, down 10.53%; Chainlink went to $16.22, down 7.63%; Aave: $258.8, -10.78%, Maker $2,429, -5.93%, and Compound was at $367.35, down 9.71%.
Notably, only Kyber Network’s token—KNC—was left sitting quite comfortably on a daily gain of 7.55%, trading at around $2.617.
The latest market dip resulted in roughly $375 million worth of trading positions liquidated in a day, according to crypto charts platform ByBit. Liquidations occur as a safety mechanism that automatically closes leveraged trading positions, which are when users borrow money from exchanges to trade. When the market goes against the leveraged positions by a certain percentage, the exchange is triggered to sell, or cover, those positions automatically in order to avoid further losses. On Wednesday of last week, a total of 375.15-million worth of leveraged trading positions was forcibly liquidated. Predictably, 88.85% of those liquidated positions had been long, meaning that those traders had been counting on the price of Bitcoin and other cryptos to move higher. Markets for all asset classes seem to know when too many investors are in it for the short-term, and when this happens, they shake them out as a protective mechanism for eventually (and hopefully) rewarding those who stay the course. This holds true for cryptocurrencies, as well.