By Echo Wang

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Nasdaq on Tuesday set a reference price of $250 per share for Coinbase Global Inc, projecting a value for the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange at $49.8 billion ahead of its landmark stock market debut on Wednesday.

The reference price is not an offering price for investors to purchase shares, but rather a benchmark for performance when the stock starts trading the exchange on Wednesday.

Coinbase shares are set to start trading under the "COIN" symbol. The opening public price will be determined by buy and sell orders collected by the Nasdaq from broker-dealers.

The reference price is below the $343.58 volume-weighted average price Coinbase's shares were trading at privately in the first quarter of this year.

If shares trade hands at or above the reference price, Coinbase would be valued at more than six times the $8 billion the company was worth in its last private fundraising round in 2018.

By comparison, the market capitalization of New York Stock Exchange-parent company Intercontinental Exchange is around $66 billion.

Coinbase has opted to go public through a direct listing rather than a traditional initial public offering. This means the company will not raise any money and existing investors are not bound by lock-up restrictions on when they can divest their holdings following the market debut.

The option to go public is much less common than a traditional IPO but is gaining traction. Previous high-profile direct listings include Spotify Technology SA in 2018, Slack Technologies Inc in 2019 and Roblox Corp in 2021.

Founded in 2012, Coinbase is one of the best-known cryptocurrency platforms globally and has more than 56 million users who trade various virtual coins, including bitcoin, ethereum and XRP.

Bitcoin hit a record of $62,741 on Tuesday, extending its 2021 rally to new heights a day before the Coinbase listing.

(Reporting by Echo Wang;Editing by Chris Reese and Dan Grebler)