16 May 2023

What if you bought all the top 10 cryptos in January 2018?

In late 2017, Bitcoin became widely renowned through the ferocious rally peaking at close to $20,000 shortly before Christmas. In a second wave lasting into early 2018, altcoins spearheaded by XRP and Ethereum rocketed while Bitcoin started dropping off.
top 10 by mcap Jan 2018 SVG

In Short

In this article, we explore the returns on the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market cap in early January 2018. Even though many of the coins are still in the top 50, it would not have been wise to buy most of them...
The table above is a snapshot of the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market cap on January 7, 2018. Bitcoin reigned at the top, but the three following coins, XRP, Ethereum, and Bitcoin Cash, had a larger combined market cap than Bitcoin. Glancing further at the list, you will recognize more names still holding onto today’s top 50 list. Many bought their first cryptocurrencies around the time of the above snapshot. Five years later, with crypto going further into the mainstream, one could be forgiven for instinctively thinking, ‘Whenever you bought your cryptos before 2020, you’d have made money’. This notion is, however, far from the truth. If you bought all the top 10 cryptocurrencies in early January 2018, only two of them would have given you positive nominal returns (as of May 14, 2023). Those two are Bitcoin and Ethereum. Mainstay cryptocurrencies, still well in the top 50 by market cap, like Cardano (Ada), Tron, Litecoin, or XRP, would have netted you a negative return between -63% and -87% if you held them till now.
top 10 Jan 2018 chart PNG
Let’s compare a few different investment portfolios you could have chosen on January 8, 2018. If you bought an equal-weighted mix of the top 10 cryptocurrencies, they would have netted you a return of -53% today. Market cap-weighting your portfolio would increase returns drastically, up to a 6% return on your investment. What drives the positive returns of the market cap-weighted portfolio is the performance of Bitcoin and Ethereum. As shown above, investing in Bitcoin alone would net you 63% today. In comparison, the S&P500 would have given you a return of 51% in the same period.
top 10 vs btc vs sp500 SVG
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