Ethereum creator compares crypto mania to world’s biggest art auction

  • Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin said increasing interest in cryptocurrencies was "a reflection of the world at large."
  • Leonardo Da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" sold for $450 million in November.
Founder of Ethereum Vitalik Buterin
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Founder of Ethereum Vitalik Buterin

Wild investment into the cryptocurrency market mirrors the record sum paid for the world's most expensive painting last month, according to the creator of Ethereum.

The cryptocurrency market has seen an unprecedented level of interest from investors this year. Bitcoin, the world's largest digital currency, has risen more than 1,500 percent since the start of 2017, with major derivatives exchange Cboe debuting the first futures contracts for the asset Sunday.

Referring to Leonardo Da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," which sold for $450 million at auction in November, Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin said increasing interest in cryptocurrencies was "a reflection of the world at large."

Buterin highlighted an emerging trend in the market — a Pokemon-like game called "CryptoKitties."

The phenomenon allows users to breed, buy and sell virtual kittens using ether, the digital token of the Ethereum blockchain.

At one point, the game was so popular that it pushed the blockchain network to its limits, resulting in a backlog of transactions. Users have spent as much as $110,707 to buy the digital animals, according to third-party research by developer Niel de la Rouviere.

In a tweet earlier this month, Buterin said that he was a fan of the game, adding: "They illustrate very well the value of a blockchain extends far beyond applications that would literally get shut down by banks or governments if they did not use one."

Blockchains are huge decentralized networks that record cryptocurrency transactions.

Ether is the second-largest digital currency by market value, according to Coinmarketcap data, and is commonly used in digital coin sales known as initial coin offerings (ICOs). Its price has risen more than 4,000 percent since the start of the year, according to industry website CoinDesk.

Ethereum was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.