You may be surprised to find out how far some of these coins have climbed.
As we approach the end of 2021, it’s interesting to look at the biggest cryptos, particularly how the top 10 has shifted in the past year. Some coins have fallen out of the list completely, some have shot to new highs, and several old favorites have held their positions.
Here are the top 10 cryptos by market cap as of Dec. 23, 2021, according to CoinMarketCap.
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
The first ever digital currency continues to top the crypto charts, though its dominance is waning slightly. A year ago, Bitcoin’s market cap was around $550 billion, representing over 60% of the total crypto market. Today, with a market cap of almost $1 trillion, Bitcoin only makes up about 40% of the total market.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 1
(BTC has held its position)
2. Ethereum (ETH)
Ethereum has kept its second place on the charts. Ethereum, seen by some as silver to Bitcoin’s gold, was the first crypto to introduce smart contracts. These tiny pieces of code live on the blockchain and make it possible to build other applications or cryptos.
First-mover Ethereum hosts the lion’s share of applications, but it also struggles with network congestion and high transaction fees. It’s due to complete an upgrade to Eth 2 next year, which will solve some of these issues. But in the meantime, several other programmable cryptos are gaining ground.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 2
(ETH has held its position)
3. Binance Coin (BNB)
The Binance exchange token, BNB, saw considerable growth this year. It’s a utility token that lets Binance customers reduce trading fees, but it also fuels the Binance Smart Chain — one of several programmable blockchains. Binance has had some issues with regulators this year, but it’s hoping to put these behind it in 2022.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 9
(BNB has risen 6 places)
4. Tether (USDT)
Stablecoin Tether has lost ground slightly this year. In February, the New York Attorney General’s office banned USDT in the state. Its investigation showed that Tether — which should have enough cash in reserve to support all the USDT it issued — had not always been able to back the coin. Authorities are still unconvinced about Tether’s reserves, particularly the amount that’s held in short-term debt. This is one reason we’re likely to see stronger stablecoin regulation next year.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 3
(USDT has fallen 1 place)
5. Solana (SOL)
Solana shot up the crypto charts this year due to its super-fast processing speed and cheap transactions. Developers and investors flocked to the potential Ethereum alternative, pushing the coin from all-time high to all-time high. At time of writing, Solana was up over 11,000% since the start of the year.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 120
(Solana has risen 115 places)
6. XRP (XRP)
It is surprising XRP or Ripple has not fallen further this year as it fights an SEC lawsuit. Many U.S. crypto exchanges no longer trade XRP, but the token continues to trade internationally.
Ripple is a blockchain-based digital payment system aimed at the financial services industry. At the end of 2021, the SEC took action against Ripple, accusing it of operating as an unregistered security.
Securities come under the remit of the SEC and have to follow different rules from most cryptocurrencies, which are currently classified as commodities. The results of the lawsuit will have implications for the whole crypto market. If the SEC is successful, it may pursue a number of other cryptos it believes should be registered as securities.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 4
(XRP has fallen 2 places)
7. Cardano (ADA)
Cardano had an up and down year. It crept into the top three cryptos by market cap in August in anticipation of its launch of smart contract functionality. Cardano takes a slow-and-steady approach to development, meaning its smart contract rollout came later than that of many other tokens.
However, it seemed to be a case of buy the rumor, sell the news. The market response to the launch was somewhat lackluster and Cardano slipped down a few places in the final months of the year.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 8
(ADA has risen 1 place)
8. USD Coin (USDC)
USD Coin is another stablecoin that’s pegged to the U.S. dollar. It was launched by the Centre consortium, of which Coinbase and Circle are founding members. USDC has tried to position itself as a more transparent project than Tether but has still faced questions over exactly how the coin is backed.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 11
(USDC has risen 3 places)
9. Terra (LUNA)
Terra is a global digital payment system that’s based on something called algorithmic stablecoins. These are pegged to various fiat (traditional) currencies, such as U.S. dollars or euros, and the LUNA token is part of the mechanism that keeps the prices stable.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 59
(LUNA has risen 50 places)
10. Avalanche (AVAX)
Our final top 10 crypto is Avalanche, another smart contract platform that people see as a potential Ethereum alternative. The most likely scenario is that we’ll see four of five smart contract platforms coming out ahead of the pack, which may include several of the cryptos on this list.
Position on Jan. 1, 2021: 64
(AVAX has risen 54 places)
Which coins fell out of the top 10?
Bitcoin and Ethereum have consistently held the top two chart positions. But the rest of the top 10 is a constantly fluctuating landscape. As one coin soars, another may slip down the list. It’s a good reminder that cryptocurrencies can generate losses as well as gains — especially if you panic buy at the highs because you’re afraid of missing out.
These coins were in the top 10 on Jan.1 but no longer rank as high:
Cryptocurrency is a fast-moving world and research is crucial if you want to stay ahead of the game. Don’t buy one of the top 10 tokens because of how much it’s gained this year. Instead try to look for coins that will be in the top 10 next year — or even next decade.
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