Blockchain structure and cryptocurrency prices

Staff working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 14 February 2020

Staff Working Paper No. 855

By Peter Zimmerman

I present a model of cryptocurrency price formation that endogenizes both the financial market for coins and the fee-based market for blockchain space. A cryptocurrency has two distinctive features: a price determined by the extent of its usage as money, and a blockchain structure that restricts settlement capacity. Limited settlement space creates competition between users of the currency, so speculative activity can crowd out monetary usage. This crowding-out undermines the ability of a cryptocurrency to act as a medium of payment, lowering its value. Higher speculative demand can reduce prices, contrary to standard economic models. Crowding-out also raises the riskiness of investing in cryptocurrency, explaining high observed price volatility.

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