What happened

Much ado has been made of the recent news that the upcoming Ethereum (ETH -1.68%) merge will take place on or around Sept. 19. This catalyst has continued to propel the value of Ethereum higher, with the world's second-largest cryptocurrency appreciating 3.4% over the past 24 hours as of 11:30 a.m. ET.

However, the token many Ethereum enthusiasts are really focusing on right now is Ethereum Classic (ETC -1.06%). The "original" fork of the Ethereum blockchain is up 10.9% over this same 24-hour period and has absolutely skyrocketed over the past week. The seven-day return for this token stands at 77%, which far exceeds Ethereum's (still not shabby) 41% weekly return.

So what

Ethereum Classic was formed initially out of a dispute among crypto miners in years past. Essentially, various major upgrades require the approval of all validators on a network. If a number of nodes dissent with the direction an upgrade will take a given project, and fail to upgrade their software accordingly, a fork can take place in which the blockchain is split in two different directions.

Most investors may not necessarily pay attention to Ethereum Classic, due to the reality that most of the action in the Ethereum ecosystem happens on the Ethereum blockchain. However, crypto miners have quietly continued their mining activity with ETC, creating an oasis for Ethereum miners who wish to continue mining in a post-merge world.

The Ethereum merge will usher in a new age of proof-of-stake validation. What this means is that the energy-intensive proof-of-work calculations that are currently needed to secure the Ethereum blockchain and validate blocks will become obsolete. While great for the environment, this isn't necessarily great for Ethereum miners, who have in many cases invested heavily in the equipment to mine it.

Now what

Given the similarities between Ethereum and Ethereum Classic, miners looking to switch off of Ethereum and support ETC can do so with minimal upgrades. Additionally, should the Ethereum blockchain experience issues with its Beacon Chain merge, investors can always go back to "old faithful," making Ethereum Classic a quasi safe haven of sorts for those with concerns.

Thus, it appears all this anticipation around the upcoming Ethereum merge could indirectly benefit proof-of-work variant Ethereum Classic to a greater degree, at least in the near term. With more momentum comes more speculation, so this run should be a fun one to watch for investors looking at short-term trading ideas.