If You’d Spent $100 on Each Top 50 Crypto 5 Years Ago, You’d Have Over $40,000 Today

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Half the top cryptos from 2017 have lost money, but others have generated incredible returns.


Key points

  • If you’d invested $100 in each of the top 50 cryptos back in April 2017, your portfolio would be worth $40,000 today.
  • Half the cryptos that were in the top 50 five years ago have fallen in value or are no longer trading.
  • Long-term investing is often the most sound strategy, even in high-risk and volatile assets like crypto.

One of the difficult aspects of cryptocurrency investing is that many coins and tokens will not last. It is a new and emerging industry, and — as we saw with Terra (LUNA) — even top cryptos can collapse in a matter of days. As a long-term investor, it can be difficult to pick the cryptocurrencies that are going to survive. Some projects are poorly thought through, some may experience technical or security difficulties, and some could turn out to be scams.

These are high-risk investments. But one of the reasons people are willing to take that risk and invest in crypto is that a handful of projects might produce extraordinary returns. Our analysis of the top 50 cryptos by market cap from April 2017 shows that half of them have declined in price in the past five years — and some are no longer trading at all. Even so, the ones that did perform really hit it out of the park.

Comparing top 50s from 2017 and 2022

Many current crypto investors may not have even heard of a number of cryptos that were in the top 50 five years ago. For example, SingularDTV, BitCrystals, BitConnect, Round, Storjcoin X, and Iconomi are no longer trading. Others, such as GameCredits, Crown, Emercoin, Factom, and Lykke have lost 80% to 90% of their value.

All in all, if you’d invested $100 in each of the top 50 cryptos back in April 2017 and held them until now, your portfolio would be worth $40,000 today — an increase of 700%. That’s in spite of the fact that 25 of your cryptos would have lost value or failed completely, totaling over $1,700 in losses.

Only ten cryptos have managed to stay in the top 50 for five years. These are: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether, XRP, Dogecoin, Litecoin, Stellar, Monero, Ethereum Classic, and Zcash. Another 15 cryptos couldn’t hold their positions in the crypto charts, but they did still gain value. The market has exploded in the last few years, and many new projects have taken market share.

The table below breaks down what those $100 investments — totalling $5,000 — in each top 50 crypto would be worth today. This does not take into account any rewards from staking or interest-earning accounts.

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Performance

Number of cryptos

Value of initial $100 investment today

Stayed in the top 50

10

$25,080

Fell out of the top 50 but still increased in value

15

$14,332

Fell out of the top 50 and decreased in value or failed

25

–$1,750

Data source: CoinMarketCap and author’s calculations

Investing for the long term

Here at The Ascent, we advocate a long-term approach to investing. It can be hard to stay the course with a new and unregulated industry like cryptocurrency, particularly as so many projects will fail. However, people who held on through the 2018 crypto winter would still be looking at sizable returns on their investments today.

This is an emerging technology and there’s a lot we don’t know about how the market will develop. For example, there are no guarantees that any crypto asset will survive the headwinds of increased regulation or a broader recession. This is why it’s important to be cautious when you buy cryptocurrency.

Only invest money you can afford to lose so that if there is a crypto crash, it won’t stop you from achieving your wider financial goals. Our five year analysis also shows why diversification matters. If you go all in on one altcoin and it then collapses, you will lose all your investment. But if you spread your money across a wider range of projects, you’ll have a bigger chance of success.

It isn’t easy to hold for the long term, especially when the value of your crypto portfolio has fallen steeply. It’s tempting to cut your losses and sell. But if you do that, you won’t benefit from any future gains. There’s reassurance in the fact that we’ve seen drops in the market before and so far, the crypto market has always bounced back.

Even so, holding isn’t always the right decision. There are sometimes good reasons to sell your crypto investments. For example, you may lose faith in the management team or your original hypothesis may no longer hold true. However, a buy-and-hold approach often gives your assets time to increase in value and can help you ride out any volatility. It can often pay off to have patience and wait for the market to recover.

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