Cryptocurrencies have gone from an obscure part of finance to centre-stage over the last year. In the space of 12 months, bitcoin has exploded from trading at $8,166 on 8 March 2020 to hitting all-time highs of over $58,000 in February 2021 and now trading at $54,011 as of 9:31am GMT on 9 March.
Their meteoric rise has been accompanied by increased institutional interest, including from big names like HSBC, Goldman Sachs, BNY Mellon and JPMorgan.
There are hundreds of cryptocurrencies around the world but the core group of 20 coins constitutes around 99% of the market by volume, according to crypto website CoinDesk.
In the first week of March — the quietest week since early January — inflows into digital asset investment products were $108m, according to James Butterfill, an investment strategist at CoinShares. Of these inflows, 90% were bitcoin, with $4m invested in ethereum. Trading volumes for bitcoin, however, remained high, with a daily average of $11.8bn for 2021 compared to $2.2bn in 2020.
As cryptocurrencies continue their rollercoaster rally into 2021 and hitting record highs in February and March, Financial News has compiled a list of the 10 largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalisation.
As of 9:32am GMT on 9 March, bitcoin was priced at $54,113, according to CoinDesk. Launched in 2009, BTC, as it is known by its market ticker, is the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation at $1.01tn. It was created as a store of value and a means to facilitate decentralised transactions.
The cryptocurrency has yo-yo-ed over the last three months and hit highs of over $58,000 in February, surpassing a market capitalisation of $1tn for the first time.
This has partly been fuelled by a spike in institutional interest in bitcoin after Elon Musk announced that his electric car company Tesla had invested $1.5bn in the cryptocurrency on 8 February.
US investment bank Goldman Sachs relaunched its trading desk for cryptocurrencies, aiming to reopen it in mid-March.
Ethereum was trading at $1,837 at 9:33am GMT on 9 March, according to CoinDesk’s platform. The second-largest cryptocurrency by total market capitalisation at $211.2bn, ethereum was first proposed in 2013 by developer Vitalik Buterin, went live in July 2015 and relies on blockchain technology. The coin recently climbed to a high of $1,958 on 19 February 2021.
XRP, a cryptocurrency that is popular with banks and other institutions, was trading at $0.48 at 9:34am GMT on 9 March and has a market cap of $48bn. The digital currency was created in 2012 by blockchain company Ripple Labs, and runs on its own blockchain protocol called Ripple.
The co-founder of Ripple Labs Jed McCaleb created the open-source blockchain payment system Stellar in 2014. Lumens is the native cryptocurrency for the system. Stellar is trading at $0.42 as of 9:34am GMT on 9 March and has a market capitalisation of $44.7bn.
Tether, originally dubbed Realcoin, was launched in 2014 and is pegged to the US dollar – making it one of the first cryptocurrencies to do so. It was trading at $1 as of 9:35am GMT on 9 March. The digital currency is the largest stablecoin – more stable because it’s tied to a fiat currency – by market capitalisation at $37.6bn, according to CoinDesk.
Tether is currently the subject of an investigation by the New York attorney-general. The US office has alleged the eponymous firm behind the cryptocurrency has, for periods of time since mid-2017, held no dollar reserves to back the coins in circulation.
Cardano is a decentralised public blockchain and cryptocurrency project pioneered by a team of academics and engineers. ADA, the digital currency that operates on the non-profit platform, was trading at $1.15 and has a market value of $36.6bn, as of 9:36am GMT on 9 March.
Launched in 2017 by Sergey Nazarov, ChainLink is an ethereum-based token that has facilitated the use of contracts that connect to payment systems. On 9 March at 9:36am GMT, it was trading at $31.4 and had a market cap of $31.4bn.
Litecoin, which was launched in 2011 by former Google and Coinbase engineer Charlie Lee, is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency which is at times considered the “digital silver” to Bitcoin’s “digital gold”. It was trading at $199.7 with a market cap of $13.4bn on 9 March at 9:37am GMT.
9. Bitcoin Cash
Bitcoin Cash, launched in 2017 by former Facebook engineer Amaury Séchet, is the largest Bitcoin fork by market cap, or a split in the transaction chain based on user opinions about transaction history, which ultimately creates new versions of the currency. According to CoinDesk, the digital currency counts chief executive of bitcoin.com Roger Ver among its early investors. It was trading at $544.4 with a market cap of $10.2bn as of 9:38am GMT on 9 March.
10. USD Coin
The stablecoin, which hit the markets in September 2018, is managed by a consortium called CENTRE, launched by peer-to-peer company Circle and crypto exchange Coinbase. Their aim, according to their website, is to “bring stability to crypto”. It was trading at $1 with a market cap of $9.12bn as of 9:38am GMT on 9 March.
Correction: This article has been amended to reflect the correct time the prices of Ethereum, XRP, Stellar, and Tether were recorded.
To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Bérengère Sim