Although the crypto market has grown exponentially over the past few years, having touched a whopping $3 trillion in 2021, Bitcoin continues to lead the cryptocurrency pack when it comes to market cap, user base, and popularity.
Founded in 2009, Bitcoin remains the undisputed king of the cryptocurrency market, keeping its position since the day the Bitcoin Network was created, which officially marked the beginning of the crypto world as we know it. Next came smart contract pioneer Ethereum, which was created in 2015. Both cryptocurrencies made fresh all-time highs in 2021, with BTC hitting $69,000 and Ether $4,880.
But interestingly, two out of the next three spots are acquired by stablecoins; Tether and USDC. Launched by the team behind crypto exchange Bitfinex, the USD-pegged Tether, with a market cap of nearly $69 billion, is at the 3rd spot. At the 5th spot is another USD-pegged stablecoin, USDC, which is created by Center, a consortium of Circle and crypto exchange Coinbase.
In between these two stablecoins is BNB, the native token of the largest crypto exchange Binance. Binance's own stablecoin, BUSD, is also at the 7th spot. If we remove the stablecoins from the equation, XRP and Cardano (ADA) would be the bearer of the 4th and 5th spots.
However, the current top crypto-list looks much different than what it was during the last bull market in 2017. The top two spots, however, remain the same, with Bitcoin and Ethereum continuing their dominance.
Over this time, BTC became a trillion-dollar asset, gained mainstream adoption, and found its place in the balance sheet of public companies like Tesla, Square, and MicroStrategy. Ethereum, meanwhile, has gone through tremendous growth, holding billions of dollars in assets as its ecosystem grows to cover innovations like DeFi, NFT, GameFi, and Metaverse.
Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum hasn't changed much since its inception, as it constantly goes through updates. Recently, the network shifted to the proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism to be more energy efficient.
While Bitcoin and Ethereum were the two biggest cryptocurrencies even then, as we said, the next three spots were occupied by Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ripple (XRP), and Litecoin (LTC) five years back.
The Top Runners of Last Bull Market
Let's now take a look into Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), and Ripple (XRP) in a bit more detailed manner.
Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is a fork of the Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain. It was created in August 2017 in an effort to scale the Bitcoin network after several developers working on the original Bitcoin protocol felt the project was deviating from founder Satoshi Nakamoto's vision of a cheap and decentralized payment system. It led to an internal conflict and resulted in the Bitcoin blockchain being split into two.
BCH was distributed to bitcoin holders at a ratio of 1:1, where each BTC holder received one BCH token for each BTC they held.
Because Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin initially shared the same blockchain, the two had similar characteristics, including a hard cap of 21 million on supply and halving every four years. So, BCH will go through its next halving on Apr. 14, 2024. Its current block reward is 6.25 BCH and will be halved to 3.125 BCH, lowering the rate at which Bitcoin Cash is generated.
Bitcoin Cash differs from Bitcoin in terms of much higher TPS, as it can support 25,000 transactions per block.
LTC, on the other hand, is the native cryptocurrency of Litecoin, an open-source blockchain project that copied its code from Bitcoin. Because of this, Litecoin will have its halving on Jul. 27, 2023, which will cut down its block reward from 12.5 LTC to 6.25 LTC.
Developed by Charlie Lee, LTC was built to be much faster and more scalable than Bitcoin. Interestingly, it was launched on the Bitcointalk forum in October 2011. The project initially launched with 150 pre-mined tokens and a total capped supply of 84 million tokens.
A major controversy erupted in 2017 when Lee, a software engineer who had worked at Google and crypto exchange Coinbase, shocked the community by selling all his LTC holdings at the end of 2017, just days after the coin hit its all-time high (ATH). As of now, Lee is the managing director of the Litecoin Foundation, which promotes the blockchain and funds its development.
When it comes to XRP, which was once known for its strong community of supporters, it is currently fighting with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in court. In 2020, Ripple was charged by the SEC for illegally raising $1.38 billion in unregistered securities offerings.
XRP is the native cryptocurrency of open-source, public blockchain XRP Ledger, designed to facilitate faster and cheaper payments. The project was founded by developers Arthur Britto, Jed McCaleb, and David Schwartz with a hard cap of 100 billion pre-mined XRP tokens in 2012. Eighty billion tokens were attributed to Ripple to fund the project's future operations and development, and the remaining XRP was divided among the founders.
Where are they Now?
Five years ago, in 2017, with the bull market going in full mode, there was a constant shuffle in the top 5 coins. But Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ripple (XRP), and Litecoin (LTC) remained the primary host of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th spots.
In terms of market cap, Ethereum is currently only behind Bitcoin with $181 billion, while Bitcoin is $387 billion. Compare that with the market capitalization of these coins, and you will understand just how tiny BCH, XRP, and LTC are.
At the end of December 2017, Bitcoin Cash had a market cap of nearly $42 billion. But today, it has slipped to the 33rd spot, with its market cap at a mere $2 billion.
The same is true for Litecoin, which enjoyed a market cap of almost $13 billion in 2017 but lost most of it. LTC today holds the 23rd spot in terms of cryptocurrencies by market cap, which is currently hovering around $3.8 billion.
Out of all the three, XRP is still showing resilience, sitting at the 6th spot still. Its market cap, meanwhile, is $23 billion, down from $89 billion on Dec. 31, 2017.
But most importantly, unlike BTC and ETH, these coins failed to make any new ATHs in the bull market of 2021. BCH's all-time high was $3,785 back on Dec. 20, 2017, and it is currently down 97% from that as it trades around $112. The highest BCH price went on this time was $1,550 in May 2021.
This lack of bullish momentum also holds true of even XRP, which is down 87% from its ATH of $3.40 hit about five years back on Jan. 7, 2018. It only managed to hit $1.84 in April 2021. As of writing, XRP is trading at $0.46.
Litecoin, however, did manage to make a new high at $410 in May 2021, much like the majority of the crypto market. However, while crypto assets in the most recent bull market did a 10x, 100x, and even 1000x, LTC couldn't even pull a 2x as its previous high was about $375 on Dec. 18, 2017. It is currently down 87% and is trading at $54.
So, during these last five years, while Bitcoin and Ethereum have grown, the others have drastically suffered. When it comes to the future prospects of these coins, it is possible they can still see some action, but returning to their prime is next to impossible unless these coins can pull a serious shift in narrative that attracts the masses. But with innovation going at a fast pace, thousands of coins competing against each other, and much more alluring and high-potential coins entering the crypto market, BCH, XRP, and LTC — the top coins of yesteryears — will likely continue to lose their value and market share.