And the Best Performing Cryptocurrency of 2017 Is….

To the surprise of many, 2017 was the year cryptocurrencies catapulted into mainstream consciousness. As far as best performers go, bitcoin wasn’t even in the top ten.

The Top Cryptocurrency of 2017

At its highest point Sunday, Ripple XRP skyrocketed 36,000% to become the world’s best-performing digital asset. The cryptocurrency charted an impressive path in the final three weeks of the year, gaining more than 800% when comparing the closing price between Dec. 7 and 31.

Many investors have placed Ripple on their watch list, as the so-called bankers’ cryptocurrency makes inroads into the traditional financial sector. With Ripple comes the promise of cheaper and faster transactions, with banks in Asia eager to work with the platform for cross-border payments.

Ripple ended the year as the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency with a market cap of more than $85 billion. The XRP token only recently overtook Ethereum as the world’s no. 2 digital asset.

When it comes to yearly gains, ether was no slouch. The market’s favorite ICO platform rose more than 9,000% for the year, placing it among the top gainers.

Cryptocurrency NEM also put up enormous gains, rising nearly 30,000%. Lesser known Ardor gained nearly 17,000% and Stellar rose more than 14,400% (all figures courtesy of Quartz).

Bitcoin’s year-end growth amounted to 1,300%. At its highest point, it was up 20 times over Jan. 1 levels.

2017 was a fine year for equities, but gains in the major indexes pale in comparison to the crypto universe. Zimbabwe’s Industrial Index was the year’s top performer at nearly 118%. Meanwhile, more established markets in Asia, Europe and the United States gained between 7% and 36%.

Crypto Market Cap

By the end of 2017, there were nearly 1,400 cryptocurrencies in circulation with a combined market cap of roughly $610 billion. At the start of the year, the total market cap was just $18 billion, representing a gain of nearly 3,300%.

As the year came to a close, there were 33 cryptocurrencies valued at $1 billion or more. Nineteen others had a market cap of $500 million or more.

The number of altcoins in circulation is expected to rise as more companies issue coin offerings. The ICO market raised more than $5 billion in 2017, with activity surging between September and December. The next few months could witness a flood of initial coin offerings as businesses look to capitalize on the crowdraise model before regulators introduce new legislation. China has already banned ICOs, whereas South Korea recently decided to reverse similar restrictions. In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is evaluating token sales carefully to determine if they should be following federal securities laws.

ICOs quickly became one of 2017’s most important developments, but it is unclear how the market will evolve over the next 12 months. Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin believes the vast majority of existing tokens will fail, but that the cream of will eventually rise to the top. He used the term “Tokens 2.0” to refer to the next generation of higher quality ICOs.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Chief Editor to and Contributor to, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi