With its valuation skyrocketing in recent months, Bitcoin has quickly morphed from a relatively niche investment to a pop culture phenomenon, prompting daily dramatic headlines about people mortgaging homes and digging up landfills to get their hands on the cryptocurrency.
To more established digital currency investors, Bitcoin isn’t a new phenomenon but rather one of the most high-profile of blockchain applications. In fact, a whole crop of newer cryptocurrencies—decentralized, digital “coins” created, held, and exchanged by computers instead of a central bank—have been introduced to the market in the past few years. Alternative coins like Litecoin, Monero, and Ethereum are making the news regularly—and the financial world has been busy creating new investment vehicles such as futures contracts and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to service the growing demand.
At Stacker, we decided to research which cryptocurrencies have offered the best return on investment over the past year. We collected data on every cryptocurrency with a current market capitalization of more than $100 million and then ranked each by their year-to-date returns from Dec. 10, 2016 to Dec. 10, 2017. If a coin launched in 2017, then we looked at the year-to-date return from the launch date instead. The resulting list was 36 cryptocurrencies, all of which had positive returns that ranged anywhere from 30% to 100,000% in gains. It's important to note that past performance is not indicative of future performance and that this list does not represent an endorsement of any cryptocurrency.
Whether you're a bull actively investing in the market or a skeptic waiting for the 'crypto bubble' to pop, check out our list of mainstream cryptocurrencies that soared to new heights in 2017.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $1,303 (30%)
Price (December 10th): $306.72
Market Cap: $6,441,044,610
ZCash’s main draw is its promise of privacy. Founded by Zooko Wilcox-O'Hearn, ZCash provides anonymous transactions that allow two parties to exchange coins without revealing their identities or the amount of the transaction—unlike Bitcoin, whose transactions can still be tracked. So far, ZCash’s secrecy guarantee seems to be paying off. In November 2017, asset manager Grayscale Investments launched the first security invested solely in ZCash.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $2,860 (186%)
Price (December 10th): $9.40
Market Cap: $965,834,961
Created by Chris Trew, Stratis is a blockchain-as-a-service platform that runs on a digital currency called the Stratis token. In simpler terms, this means Stratis offers services that let users privately track financial transactions and other data using blockchains, a distributed ledger technology. What makes Stratis unique is that it allows users to create sidechains—private, separate blockchains that fully integrate with Stratis’s main blockchain.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $5,055 (406%)
Price (December 10th): $34.83
Market Cap: $3,482,773,910
Nicknamed the “Chinese Ethereum,” Neo is China’s first open source blockchain. Founded as AntShares by Onchain CEO Da Hongfei, Neo has created what it calls a “smart economy,” in which individuals or organizations can have digital identities that allow them to exchange money or assets in digital form through direct, transparent, and private digital “smart contracts.” The cryptocurrency has been slowly rising in value after a sudden drop when China banned initial coin offerings (ICOs) in September 2017.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $7,523 (652%)
Price (December 10th): $29.48
Market Cap: $324,320,843
Though still in beta testing, Augur has already received a significant amount of attention as a decentralized market prediction platform built on Ethereum. Founded as a nonprofit by Jack Peterson and Joey Krug, Augur lets users “bet” on events using digital tokens called Rep—with correct predictors winning the tokens post-event.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $8,488 (749%)
Price (December 10th): $1.67
Market Cap: $6,665,596,000
Social media users can now like, post, and share their way to bigger bank accounts thanks to Steemit, a social media platform that doles out its alternative coin Steem to active users. Created by former financial analyst Ned Scott and computer scientist Dan Larimer, this cryptocurrency has a very low barrier to entry; anyone can join Steemit and start interacting to earn digital currency—then cash it out for real money. According to Wired, Steemit has given out more than $30 million worth of Steem since its launch.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $9,399 (840%)
Price (December 10th): $6.76
Market Cap: $135,265,402
Described as “the most fairly distributed cryptocurrency” on its website, Clams launched by giving out free coins to all active users of Bitcoin, Litecoin, or Dogecoin. Since then, the Clams network has given out nearly a Clam coin per minute to auto-selected users in its network, a proof-of-stake system that Clams claims is more equitable than Bitcoin’s proof-of-work system. Anyone can download the software and join the network to start trading the currency.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $9,972 (897%)
Price (December 10th): $20.77
Market Cap: $181,786,887
Founded by Paul Snow and David Johnston, Factom is a blockchain technology company that specializes in secure record keeping for hospitals, financial institutions, and other organizations. Built on Bitcoin, Factom promises to prevent fraud through its digital data management that keeps tamper-proof digital records of transactions.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $10,484 (948%)
Price (December 10th): $0.0026
Market Cap: $406,535,360
Created by programmer Billy Markus and Adobe product manager Jackson Palmer to poke fun at the hype around cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin has itself become somewhat of a hyped digital coin, to the chagrin of Palmer, who has cautioned investors about a cryptocurrency bubble. The Dogecoin community is known for raising funds for charities as well as quirky one-off projects.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $11,066 (1,007%)
Price (December 10th): $1372.08
Market Cap: $28,813,751,471
Like Bitcoin, but faster with lower fees. That’s what the makers of Bitcoin Cash had in mind when they initiated a hard fork split from Bitcoin and created this new cryptocurrency in August. The battle between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash supporters still rages on, with the two sides in disagreement about how best to increase the network capacity for cryptocurrencies.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $14,153 (1,315%)
Price (December 10th): $0.58
Market Cap: $575,155,140
Aimed at users who want to create their own DIY blockchains, Ardor is a child-chain platform—a customizable “light” blockchain built on the advanced platform Nxt and its digital currency. These child-chains, according to Nxt, make it simpler for anyone to create blockchain services, especially as users are able to rely on the main chain for security.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $15,003 (1,400%)
Price (December 10th): $1.18
Market Cap: $155,794,790
Widely known as an online casino, Edgeless is a decentralized gambling platform that promises full transparency and zero percent house edge. Based on Ethereum smart contracts, Edgeless was founded by a group of blockchain and gambling experts, including Tomas Draksas.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $19,633 (1,863%)
Price (December 10th): $0.32
Market Cap: $324,040,360
Dubbed “an Airbnb for computing-processing power” by Forbes, Golem Worldwide Supercomputer network is a decentralized sharing economy that lets users around the world buy and sell computing power, using an Ethereum smart contract to trade digital tokens called GNTs. Founded by Julian Zawistowki, the Golem network doesn’t create and give out tokens for proof of work the way Bitcoin does. Instead, the network simply facilitates contracts between requestors who bring their own Ethereum-backed tokens.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $21,416 (2,042%)
Price (December 10th): $16,499
Market Cap: $276,104,000,000
The oldest and best-known cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is a global payment system created by a person or group with the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Like many cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin relies on a proof-of-work system, which means new coins are created by “mining”—performing a computational record-keeping service for the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin’s value has rocketed sky high in recent months, leading financial experts to argue over whether the cryptocurrency is a reliable fiat currency.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $26,460 (2,546%)
Price (December 10th): $0.24
Market Cap: $8,081,331,746
Founded by Ryan Fugger and Jed McCaleb, Ripple functions as both a currency and an exchange that allows any form of currency to be traded. Today, more than 100 banks use Ripple’s blockchain technology. In an interview with Fortune, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse pointed out that one edge Ripple has over other cryptocurrencies is speed: “Bitcoin takes four hours to settle a transaction. XRP takes 3.6 seconds.”
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $27,633 (2,663%)
Price (December 10th): $10.61
Market Cap: $1,060,836,203
Want to make your own cryptocurrency? Waves lets you do just that. Founded by Russian physicist Alexander Ivanov, Waves is a public blockchain platform that allows users to easily create their own digital coins—and trade it quickly, thanks to new next-generation technology that allows for much faster network processing of transactions.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $29,446 (2,845%)
Price (December 10th): $0.29
Market Cap: $122,584,270
Founded by Montrealers Joel Yaffe and Nick Iversen, Potcoin launched at 4:20 pm in late January 2014 with the goal of becoming the go-to currency for the legalized cannabis industry. This peer-to-peer alternative coin aims to let weed businesses bank their proceeds without having to deal with traditional banks that won’t accept their funds.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $31,380 (3,038%)
Price (December 10th): $261.26
Market Cap: $4,807,205,529
Monero, like Bitcoin, has an anonymous creator. Unlike Bitcoin, Monero promises anonymity for its transactions, so the identities of currency exchangers and the amounts of each transaction are untraceable. Monero’s privacy features have attracted some hackers, but the cryptocurrency has found favor with musicians too; artists ranging from Slayer to Sia will be accepting Monero this holiday season.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $36,300 (3,530%)
Price (December 10th): $28.11
Market Cap: $5,060,573,280
What’s the difference between Ethereum Classic and plain old Ethereum? Not much, since the two cryptocurrencies used to be one. But a philosophical disagreement over how to deal with a hack on the network ended up splitting the cryptocurrency, with the original Ethereum platform renamed Ethereum Classic and the new one Ethereum. Because the alternative coin’s co-founder Vitalik Buterin, along with other key players, went with the new Ethereum, Ethereum Classic hasn’t received as many updates—or quite as much investment interest.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $40,187 (3,919%)
Price (December 10th): $156.76
Market Cap: $11,835,439,930
Created by former Google employee Charlie Lee, Litecoin is a lot like Bitcoin, except it allows anyone to participate in mining the cryptocurrency and boasts shorter transaction times. CNBC reports that Litecoin transactions take about two minutes, compared to Bitcoin’s 300 minutes.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $41,804 (4,080%)
Price (December 10th): $0.014
Market Cap: $301,436,730
DigiByte is based on Bitcoin but adjusted to improve speed and security. Created by programmer Jared Tate as an open-source cryptocurrency, DigiByte has attracted developers who have built gaming projects on the DigiByte blockchain—including a game platform called Mine That Dig that awards DigiBytes to Minecraft players.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $45,629 (4,463%)
Price (December 10th): $143.18
Market Cap: $286,367,863
There’s little reliable information out there about Bitcoindark—and Bitcoindark’s own website is currently emblazoned with a red warning sign encouraging visitors to swap out Bitcoindark for Komodo coins, yet another cryptocurrency whose team members all use pseudonyms.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $48,116 (4,712%)
Price (December 10th): $0.35
Market Cap: $117,193,057
Feathercoin is based on Litecoin—and thus is quite similar to its more established predecessor. One differentiating factor, according to Feathercoin founder Peter Bushnell, is that Feathercoin is “more resilient to 51% of attacks than Bitcoin or Litecoin.”
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $48,431 (4,743%)
Price (December 10th): $0.17
Market Cap: $431,448,850
A public, real-time financial platform, BitShares acts as a decentralized asset exchange that lets users issue stocks or make trades. Created by programmer Daniel Larimer, BitShares has its own digital coin called BTS, which can be used to manage any transaction or loan servicing fees.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $54,343 (5,334%)
Price (December 10th): $1.85
Market Cap: $147,817,841
Better known today as Nav Coin, this cryptocurrency is built on Bitcoin Core, but tweaked to handle transactions in under 30 seconds and better protect users’ identities. Nav Coin was founded by Craig MacGregor with the goal of simplifying the online payment process and ensuring user privacy.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $54,493 (5,349%)
Price (December 10th): $8.13
Market Cap: $1,220,101,050
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $58,471 (5,747%)
Price (December 10th): $457.59
Market Cap: $45,759,976,500
Originally proposed by programmer Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum is a blockchain platform known for its smart contracts—digital agreements that allow users to privately exchange money or assets in digital form, without the need for a middleman. With Forbes reporting that J.P. Morgan Chase, Microsoft, and other big banks and tech companies are getting behind Etherium, the decentralized platform is quickly picking up mainstream support. Ethereum’s digital token is called "ether,” while its internal transaction pricing mechanism is called "gas.”
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $60,236 (5,924%)
Price (December 10th): $3.62
Market Cap: $467,200,621
Founded by 27 people from around the world, Ark is a blockchain platform that uses “smart bridges” to connect blockchains with each other, with the goal of creating flexible and scalable networks. Ark coin users are promised rapid transactions with 8-second block times.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $64,630 (6,363%)
Price (December 10th): $716.08
Market Cap: $15,753,717,071
Originally called XCoin, Dash is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency with a couple unique features. First, the cryptocurrency boasts a two-tiered operating system, with a volunteer network called “masternodes” overseeing coin miners. Dash also focuses on private and anonymous transactions through a service called PrivateSend.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $64,868 (6,387%)
Price (December 10th): $0.0025
Market Cap: $456,535,580
Bytecoin’s claim to fame is its use of CryptoNote technology, which is more private than Bitcoin technology. Founded anonymously, Bytecoin is designed to be mined on a regular computer and aims to be more egalitarian to its miners by restricting GPU and ASIC mining, practices that require higher power grids.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $102,403 (10,140%)
Price (December 10th): $0.43
Market Cap: $3,860,766,000
Dreamed up by UtopianFuture, a user in the Bitcoin Talk forum, NEM is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that boasts a handful of unique features, including a proof-of-importance algorithm that reveals a user’s authority, and a reputation system aimed at gauging a user’s trustworthiness. Although still relatively unknown in the U.S., NEM is popular in Japan, where financial institutions are testing a version of the NEM blockchain technology.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $112,102 (11,110%)
Price (December 10th): $0.65
Market Cap: $649,233,765
An open-source cryptocurrency, Nxt was designed as a platform for building applications and financial services. Unlike Bitcoin, Nxt doesn’t allow for mining, since it uses a proof-of-stake algorithm to reach consensus on each transaction. Like Bitcoin, Nxt was launched by an anonymous founder—a software developer who goes by the handle BCNext.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $399,768 (39,877%)
Price (December 10th): $8.25
Market Cap: $692,597,662
Another peer-to-peer cryptocurrency, Vertcoin has many similarities to Bitcoin but differs in that it discourages centralized mining, thereby making its blockchain less likely to experience major attacks. Vertcoin also offers stealth address technology that prevents payers from seeing the payee’s other transactions.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $441,243 (44,024%)
Price (December 10th): $14.11
Market Cap: $1,482,942,554
Famous as the first Japanese cryptocurrency, Monacoin gets its name from Mona the Cat, a popular Japanese cartoon that’s now also featured on Monacoin’s logo. Created by an anonymous developer with the pseudonym Mr. Watanabe, the script-based cryptocurrency is popular in Japan—and largely limited to the Japanese market.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $529,757 (52,876%)
Price (December 10th): $0.0081
Market Cap: $133,597,498
Created by an anonymous founder called Sunerok, Verge was called DodgeCoinDark until its rebranding in 2016. Built on Bitcoin, this open-source cryptocurrency is focused on privacy and anonymity, protecting user identities by obscuring IP addresses with Tor and I2P technology.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $654,696 (65,370%)
Price (December 10th): $0.15
Market Cap: $727,695,000
Fedoracoin, which got its name from the “tips fedora” meme, was created to let online community members thank each other by sending each other digital tips. Often described as a mix of Dogecoin and Litecoin, Fedoracoin is especially popular with Reddit users.
What $1,000 invested a year ago would be worth today? $1,398,316 (139,732%)
Price (December 10th): $1.64
Market Cap: $492,599,603
Here’s a cryptocurrency designed for do-gooders. Einsteinium was created specifically to raise funds for scientific research, and as such, is attached to an organizational nonprofit called the Einsteinium Foundation. There isn’t much information about the digital coin’s genesis; Einsteinium’s website showcases its current team but also states, without going into details, that most of the original team members left. Under its proof-of-work mining system, the foundation is able to dedicate 2 percent of every block reward to funding scientific research.