What happened

Wednesday was a tumultuous day for stocks with ties to the cryptocurrency market. Leading digital tokens Bitcoin (BTC -1.13%) and Ethereum traded sideways, which usually indicates a calm market day for crypto stocks.

However, the initial public offering (IPO) of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global (NASDAQ: COIN) drove many of the most volatile crypto stocks lower. Bitcoin-mining heavyweights Marathon Digital Holdings (MARA 5.63%) and Riot Blockchain (RIOT 4.01%) fell as much as 17.1% and 16.6%, respectively. Fellow crypto miner Bit Digital (BTBT 5.88%) started the day nearly 25% higher due to positive momentum from Bitcoin price increases in recent days but was trading 6.7% lower at 3 p.m. EDT. Even data-analytics company Microstrategy (MSTR 9.12%), which has invested its cash reserves in Bitcoin tokens, dropped as much as 12.5% lower.

A man stands on a highway marked Cryptocurrency, which rises to a huge question mark in the sky.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Why should Coinbase's public offering trigger a wave of falling share prices among Bitcoin miners and others with a heavy interest in rising Bitcoin prices? After all, this event has been widely advertised as an important turning point in the history of cryptocurrencies as a legit investment class. A well-heeled Coinbase could act as a stabilizing force in this volatile market and help traditional investors find their way into this new idea.

The new stock surged more than 30% higher on day one, briefly touching a $100 billion market capitalization. This IPO checked all the boxes that were expected to support the generally positive pricing momentum for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other leading crypto names. All of that should be good news for crypto miners and investors, too.

That stabilizing effect can be bad news for some of the highest fliers in the cryptocurrency market, though. Marathon's stock has gained 9,600% over the last year, while Riot Blockchain soared 4,800% higher. Their massive gains were built around the idea of skyrocketing Bitcoin prices for the foreseeable future.

A Bitcoin market with more influence from steady hands like a well-funded Coinbase may be good for the cryptocurrency's long-term value, but with less exciting gains in the near term. The same speculators who drove these stocks to the moon in recent months are reconsidering their tactics at this market crossroads.

Now what

Coinbase raised nearly $3 billion in Wednesday's direct listing, bolstering a balance sheet that held just $4.9 billion of cash equivalents at the end of 2020. Most of that cash balance consisted of customers' custodial funds, which limits what Coinbase can do with it. The IPO may turn out to be a game-changing moment in the market history of cryptocurrencies.

That should be an exciting thought for long-term investors who expect Bitcoin and other digital currencies to become a standard form of value storage, much like gold or government bonds are today. It could also be terrifying for short-sighted speculators who make their living on extreme volatility.

Personally, I'm starting to think of my modest cryptocurrency holdings as serious long-term investments. Coinbase didn't drive me to that conclusion all by itself, but this IPO played a significant part in my thought process. You can take a deep dive into how the crypto market works before you make up your own mind.