The crypto market is green and bullish again, but some tokens look “greener.” Tokens like Aptos (APT) dominated headlines and rose more than 450% in three weeks. Moonbeam (GLMR), Axie Infinity (AXS), and dYdX (DYDX) doubled, or nearly doubled, their value over the same time.
The trigger that often sparks an impressive rally is the upcoming NFT or token unlock. The event means more tokens will enter circulation and is mainly considered bearish.
Let’s check how and why the upcoming token unlocks affect the asset price.
dYdX (DYDX) Token Unlock
DYDX, the governance token of the decentralized exchange dYdX, increased by more than 128% in the first three weeks of the year.
The price surged despite any announcement on the dYdX protocol upgrade, partnership, or other important news that could have triggered the positive price changes.
January 25 was the only important day on the calendar. Decentralized perpetual swap exchange had to unlock massive tokens and increase the existing 156 million token supply by nearly 88% within a week.
DYDX declined by 16% two days before the scheduled event, however, and made a steep 52% u-turn instantly after dYdX Foundation announced its plan to postpone the scheduled 130 million DYDX token unlock until December 1, 2023.
Ronin (RON) Token Unlock
Ronin (RON), an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) based blockchain for game developers, unlocked 22.19 million RON tokens on January 27, 2023. The amount accounted for 2.2% of the token’s one billion total supply.
RON’s price jumped by 25% within three days before the scheduled RON token unlock, further contributing to its steady 180% growth in a month. The asset price slightly dumped by 5% after millions of new RON tokens entered the market and remained at similar levels at the time of publishing.
70% of Ronin’s RON supply, currently worth nearly $517 million, remains vested.
Moonbeam (GLMR) Token Unlock
Moonbeam (GLMR), the Polkadot parachain, ended its month-long decline on January 8 by jumping 9.6% a few days before the planned GLMR token release on January 11, 2023.
The protocol’s first-ever token investing had to add more than 46 million new GLMRs into circulation, increasing the existing 556 million supply by more than 4.6%.
The token’s price has continued there and climbed up by an additional 40% over the next 12 days, reaching highs not seen since the start of November 2022.
Moonbeam is set to fully release one billion of its GLMR tokens into circulation by the end of March 2026.
Axie Infinity (AXS) Token Unlock
AXS, the governance token behind the Axie Infinity NFT game, spiked by more than 51% in 24 hours ahead of around 4.8 million AXS token unlock scheduled on January 23, 2023.
As of the release price, nearly $44 million worth of AXS tokens were added to the circulation, accounting for 1.8% of the asset’s total supply of 270 million.
The price of the NFT game’s token declined by 15% the second day after they release, ending the impressive 131% monthly rally.
What Drives Token Price Rises Ahead of Unlocking?
Token unlocks historically are considered bearish events, as they represent the increase in circulating supply.
Newly released digital assets enter the circulating supply, create selling pressure, and thus dump the current price. Following the general principle of supply and demand, the higher supply reduces demand, which reflects declining prices.
Upcoming new token releases allow early investors, developers, or other holders to sell their assets while the price is still high.
Since the markets are speculative, the price before the token unlocks often moves upward. The positive momentum may be strengthened by the good news that token issuers have “withheld for months when the market was dead,” says Unlock Calendar, the project dedicated to tracking the crypto token unlock schedules.
As we experience positive market momentum, teams with upcoming unlocks will release good news that they withheld for months when market was dead
Goal would be riding positive market moves to pump the price just before unlocks
— Unlocks Calendar (@UnlocksCalendar) January 14, 2023
On the other hand, another more fundamental factor determines which direction the token’s price could move after unlocking. This is the allocation to whom the unlocked tokens will be distributed.
Tokens distributed to the protocol’s treasury, or to continue the project’s development, often mean that they will remain in the ecosystem and will not be instantly sold for profit.
Meanwhile, tokens unlocked and distributed to partners, advisors or early investors on a large share are at a higher risk of creating selling pressure.
"Token unlocks aren't all cut from the same cloth," says Conor Ryder, the research analyst at crypto market data firm Kaiko. "Thing to watch with unlocks is % to investors: if c.50% expect heavy sell pressure."
Read more on the Aptos (APT) token price surge:
Aptos (APT) Faces Scam Allegations as It Surges 420% in a Month
Find more about the current crypto market revival:
Bitcoin Holds Above $21,000 for Three Consecutive Days: Dawn of the Bull Market?