(Bloomberg) -- Small investors have started to ease back into crypto, even if they are not yet rushing in headfirst the way they did during the last bull market three years ago.

At the biggest US crypto exchange, Coinbase Global Inc., net consumer transaction revenue rose 60% in the fourth quarter from the year-ago period, and 80% over the third quarter, according to shareholder letter released Thursday. At Robinhood Markets Inc., which reported on Tuesday and is focused on retail users, crypto notional volumes in December jumped by 242% from a year ago, the company said.

These are just the latest signs that mom-and-pop traders, who lost billions of dollars after crypto-price collapse in 2022, may be starting to come back, thanks to the exuberance surrounding the January launch of US exchange-traded funds investing directly in Bitcoin. The price of Bitcoin more than doubled last year amid the hoopla, and the lure of even bigger gains is making some consumers forget just how volatile crypto can be. 

“There are signs that the retail audience is starting to get back into the market, but not nearly to the extent of the last bull market yet,” said Kyle Doane, a trader at Arca. “Even crypto stocks like COIN and miners are exhibiting more volatility than many tokens.” 

Retail traders are critical to crypto. They accounted for a lion’s share of revenues on Coinbase during the last bull run, and are a key revenue driver for most other crypto exchanges as well.

In a sign that retail investors are not fully in yet, Web searches for word “Bitcoin” — a metric that Wall Street analysts use to track retail interest in the market — spiked in the first half of January, when the ETFs debuted, but then collapsed back to bear-market levels, according to Google Trends. 

Downloads of top crypto-exchange apps, heavily used by retail traders, are also well below their bull-market levels. Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange, saw app downloads of 10 million in the fourth quarter, up from 9 million in the third, and 8.1 million in the last three months of 2022, according to market intelligence firm Sensor Tower. It had 25.8 million downloads during a peak in the second quarter of 2021. 

Coinbase apps’ downloads jumped 13% sequentially, but were still down year-over-year, according to Sensor Tower. Its 1.7 million app downloads in the fourth quarter is a fraction of the peak 10.8 million downloads the company saw in the second quarter of 2021, according to Sensor Tower.

And looking at Coinbase’s consumer trading volume, “we are only at 16% of the last peak retail volume,” said Owen Lau, analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. “With the money returning from the bankrupt entities, there is a lot of room to run potentially.” Some consumers have had their money stuck in a slew of bankrupt startups including crypto exchange FTX as they’ve inched their way through bankruptcies.

Many investors are also hoping for another rally thanks to the Bitcoin halving, a software upgrade expected in April when rewards to computers supporting the network will be cut in half. Bitcoin is trading at the highest levels in more than two years at around $50,000.

“We’ve definitely seen some good momentum drivers,” Coinbase CFO Alesia Haas said in an interview with Bloomberg Thursday. The halving had, in the past, resulted “in more retail engagement and growth.” 

If prices continue to go up — and Bitcoin has risen by more than 20% so far this year — mom-and-pop investors will find the allure tough to resist, market observers say.

“As the crypto market cap and trading volumes go up, retail trading goes up as well,” Alyssa Choo, crypto equities analyst at Bitwise, wrote on X. “Everyone wants to be a part of the bull market.”

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