Top Cryptocurrencies of 2017

To say 2017 was a good year for cryptocurrencies would be like saying 2016 was a good year for Donald Trump impersonators. The total value of cryptocurrencies has surged from $17 billion on January 1st to over $580 billion — a greater than 3,300% increase in just twelve months. But which coins were the top cryptocurrencies of 2017?

There are many ways one could look at this question. One could simply look at the top coins by market capitalization at the end of the year. Or one could look at those which had the greatest percentage gain in 2017. What I’d like to do is look at those cryptocurrencies which were most consistently in the Top Ten by market capitalization during 2017.

Why use this metric? Many coins can boast large percentage increases in 2017, but even the coins that increased by over 1,000% actually underperformed the cryptocurrency market as a whole. So looking at a coin’s rank in comparison to other cryptocurrencies reveals which coins were able to maintain solid support during this year’s bull market. Anyone involved in this space for even a short time knows that coins can shoot up from hype quickly, and fall just as quickly when the hype dies down. But which coins rose above the hype and were valued by the market week-in and week-out throughout 2017? Let’s look and see. Trigger warning: basketball analogies will abound in this analysis — leave now if that’s not your thing.

(Here’s your standard disclaimer about this not being investment advice, don’t take crazy risks, etc. In other words, use common sense and take responsibility for your own actions. It’s not my fault if you lose all your money betting on crypto.)

All data is based on the historical charts from coinmarketcap.com.


Starting Five

Twenty-five coins cracked the Top Ten for at least one week in 2017, but only five were in the Top Ten every single week. They comprise our Starting Five — the coins you could count on to give a solid performance on a consistent basis.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 52/52
Highest Rank: 1
Lowest Rank: 1
Average Rank: 1
End of Year Rank: 1

This is the superstar of the team — the LeBron James of cryptocurrency. Yes, Bitcoin’s starting to show his age (he’s moving more slowly now and his salary’s gotten out of hand), but he’s still the All-Star of All-Stars. Until someone unseats him, Bitcoin’s the King.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 52/52
Highest Rank: 2
Lowest Rank: 3
Average Rank: 2.04
End of Year Rank: 2

On any other team, Ethereum would be the star, but instead he’s playing second fiddle to the superstar Bitcoin. Ethereum is the Kyrie Irving of cryptocurrency — good enough to demand respect, but not good enough to be the number one option on the King’s team.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 52/52
Highest Rank: 2
Lowest Rank: 5
Average Rank: 3.35
End of Year Rank: 4

In the modern NBA (I warned you) every team seems to have that one guy from Eastern Europe who’s a solid performer, but isn’t really popular with the fans because they can’t pronounce his name and he doesn’t speak English. Ripple is that player on the cryptocurrency team: because it works differently than most other coins, most crypto fans view it with suspicion, but you can’t argue with the fact that it has remained in the Top Ten every week this year.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 52/52
Highest Rank: 4
Lowest Rank: 7
Average Rank: 4.90
End of Year Rank: 5

Litecoin is the veteran who’s seen everything. He’s been at this game for years and seen other players come and go, but remains a starter. Yes, he’s a bit creaky now and might soon be replaced by a young hotshot, but for now he’s still starting.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 52/52
Highest Rank: 3
Lowest Rank: 9
Average Rank: 6.06
End of Year Rank: 8

Every team has that scrappy player who doesn’t really receive the hype and press of the stars. That’s Dash. The other players on the bench think they’re better and have flashier moves, but the coach (i.e., the market) values Dash’s experience, hustle, dedication, commitment to fundamentals, and attitude.


Strong Off the Bench

A good team isn’t only its Starting Five; it needs other solid players to come off the bench when called upon. The cryptocurrency market has those players as well: they didn’t crack the Top Ten every week, but were there frequently due to advanced features and solid backing.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 48/52
Highest Rank: 4
Lowest Rank: 12
Average Rank: 7.92
End of Year Rank: 10

Monero is the player on the bench who’s always insisting to everyone he should be a starter. Yes, he’s got some impressive moves, but he’s not yet enough of an all-around player to consistently start.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 47/52
Highest Rank: 4
Lowest Rank: 12
Average Rank: 7.65
End of Year Rank: 9

NEM has been sitting on the edge of the bench for some time. Everyone’s expecting him to get cut soon, but so far he’s been able to contribute enough to stay on the team.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 39/52
Highest Rank: 5
Lowest Rank: 17
Average Rank: 8.13
End of Year Rank: 17

Ethereum Classic has been on the bench for a while now, and can spot-start in a pinch, but it looks like his better days might be behind him.


Top Prospects

The Starting Five are solid because they have been consistent week-in, week-out. However, their positions are not assured. There are some other coins that have been introduced this year that show great promise, and may end up dethroning some of the starters in the coming year.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 21/21
Highest Rank: 3
Lowest Rank: 4
Average Rank: 3.33
End of Year Rank: 3

Here we have the uber-prospect who has the chance to replace the superstar. But he doesn’t have enough experience to step in just yet. Perhaps he’ll be the next LeBron, or perhaps he’ll be the next Greg Oden. Only time will tell.

Other coins that show promise but haven’t proven staying power yet include:

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 23/28
Highest Rank: 4
Lowest Rank: 11
Average Rank: 8.36
End of Year Rank: 7
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 3/12
Highest Rank: 6
Lowest Rank: 20
Average Rank: 13.17
End of Year Rank: 6
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 3/5
Highest Rank: 5
Lowest Rank: 11
Average Rank: 8.60
End of Year Rank: 11

Retired

Sometimes players have to realize it’s time to hang up the shoes and retire. The market decided this for some once-Top Ten cryptocurrencies in 2017, including:

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 16/52
Highest Rank: 8
Lowest Rank: 60
Average Rank: 24.10
End of Year Rank: 55
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 18/52
Highest Rank: 8
Lowest Rank: 43
Average Rank: 20.81
End of Year Rank: 36

Cut from the Team

Not everyone can make the team. Some players show brief glimpses of promise, but ultimately don’t possess the talent or fundamentals to make it as members of the team. This is true of the follow coins, who cracked the Top Ten briefly in 2017 but then sank back into mediocrity as the year wore on (one even got delisted). Who knows, perhaps with hard work and improvements, some of them can try out again in the future and make the team.

Number Weeks in Top Ten: 3/52
Highest Rank: 8
Lowest Rank: 38
Average Rank: 21.96
End of Year Rank: 13
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 13/52
Highest Rank: 7
Lowest Rank: 60
Average Rank: 26.69
End of Year Rank: 15
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 3/49
Highest Rank: 8
Lowest Rank: 98
Average Rank: 25.45
End of Year Rank: 23
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 4/52
Highest Rank: 8
Lowest Rank: 50
Average Rank: 25.38
End of Year Rank: 24
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 1/52
Highest Rank: 10
Lowest Rank: 26
Average Rank: 18.19
End of Year Rank: 26
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 7/52
Highest Rank: 8
Lowest Rank: 40
Average Rank: 21.13
End of Year Rank: 27
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 2/52
Highest Rank: 9
Lowest Rank: 48
Average Rank: 24.98
End of Year Rank: 32
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 3/52
Highest Rank: 10
Lowest Rank: 38
Average Rank: 19.50
End of Year Rank: 34
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 3/52
Highest Rank: 9
Lowest Rank: 47
Average Rank: 24.00
End of Year Rank: 45
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 1/52
Highest Rank: 10
Lowest Rank: 132
Average Rank: 48.69 
End of Year Rank: 38
Number Weeks in Top Ten: 1/52
Highest Rank: 10
Lowest Rank: (Delisted)
Average Rank: 77.33
End of Year Rank: (Delisted)

On to 2018…

The first rule of cryptocurrency is that you can’t predict cryptocurrency. So there’s no way to know what 2018 will hold: Will it experience the crazy rises of 2017? Or will it be more like the bear-market 2014? Will the Starting Five still be the same at the end of 2018, or will it radically change? No one knows, but it’ll be a fun ride no matter what.