How the Top Cryptocurrencies Performed in 2021
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How the Top Cryptocurrencies Performed in 2021

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How the Top Cryptocurrencies Performed in 2021

The Returns of Top Cryptocurrencies in 2021

2021 saw the crypto markets boom and mature, with different sectors flourishing and largely outperforming the market leader, bitcoin.

While bitcoin only managed to return 59.8% last year, the crypto sector’s total market cap grew by 187.5%, with many of the top coins offering four and even five-digit percentage returns.

2021 Crypto Market Roundup

Last year wasn’t just a breakout year for crypto in terms of returns, but also the growing infrastructure’s maturity and resulting decorrelation of individual crypto industries and coins.

Crypto’s infrastructure has developed significantly, and there are now many more onramps for people to buy altcoins that don’t require purchasing and using bitcoin in the process. As a result, many cryptocurrency prices were more dictated by the value and functionality of their protocol and applications rather than their correlation to bitcoin.

CryptocurrencyCategory2021 Returns
BitcoinCryptocurrency59.8%
EthereumSmart Contract Platform399.2%
Binance CoinExchange Token1,268.9%
SolanaSmart Contract Platform11,177.8%
CardanoSmart Contract Platform621.3%
XRPCryptocurrency277.8%
TerraSmart Contract Platform12,967.3%
AvalancheSmart Contract Platform3,334.8%
PolkadotSmart Contract Platform187.9%
DogecoinMeme Coin3,546.0%

Sources: TradingView, Binance, Uniswap, FTX, Bittrex

Bitcoin wasn’t the only cryptocurrency that didn’t manage to reach triple-digit returns in 2021. Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash also provided meagre double-digit percentage returns, as payment-focused cryptocurrencies were largely ignored for projects with smart contract capabilities.

Other older projects like Stellar Lumens (109%) and XRP (278%) provided triple-digit returns, with Cardano (621%) being the best performer of the old guard despite not managing to ship its smart contract functionality last year.

The Rise of the Ethereum Competitors

Ethereum greatly outpaced bitcoin in 2021, returning 399.2% as the popularity boom of NFTs and creation of DeFi 2.0 protocols like Olympus (OHM) expanded possible use-cases.

But with the rise of network activity, a 50% increase in transfers in 2021, Ethereum gas fees surged. From minimums of $20 for a single transaction, to NFT mint prices starting around $40 and going into the hundreds on congested network days, crypto’s retail crowd migrated to other smart contract platforms with lower fees.

Alternative budding smart contract platforms like Solana (11,178%), Avalanche (3,335%), and Fantom (13,207%) all had 4-5 digit percentage returns, as these protocols built out their own decentralized finance ecosystems and NFT markets.

With Ethereum set to merge onto the beacon chain this year, which uses proof of stake instead of proof of work, we’ll see if 2022 brings lower gas fees and retail’s return to Ethereum if the merge is successful.

Dog Coins Meme their Way to the Top

While many new cryptocurrencies with strong functionality and unique use-cases were rewarded with strong returns, it was memes that powered the greatest returns in cryptocurrencies this past year.

Dogecoin’s surge after Elon Musk’s “adoption” saw many other dog coins follow, with SHIB benefitting the most and returning an astounding 19.85 million percent.

But ever since Dogecoin’s run from $0.07 to a high of $0.74 in Q2 of last year, the original meme coin’s price has slowly bled -77% down to $0.17 at the time of writing. After the roller coaster ride of last year, 2022 started with a positive catalyst for Dogecoin holders as Elon Musk announced DOGE can be used to purchase Tesla merchandise.

Gamifying the Crypto Industry

The intersection between crypto, games, and the metaverse became more than just a pipe dream in 2021. Axie Infinity was the first crypto native game to successfully establish a play to earn structure that combines its native token (AXS) and in-game NFTs, becoming a sensation and source of income for many in the Philippines.

Other crypto gaming projects like Defi Kingdoms are putting recognizable game interfaces on decentralized finance applications, with the decentralized exchange becoming the town’s “marketplace” and yield farms being the “gardens” where yield is harvested. This fantasy aesthetic is more than just a new coat of paint, as the project with $1.04B of total value locked is developing an underlying play-to-earn game.

Along with gamification, 2021 saw crypto native and non-crypto developers put a big emphasis on the digital worlds or metaverses users will inhabit. Facebook’s name change to Meta resulted in the two prominent metaverse projects The Sandbox (SAND) and Decentraland (MANA) surge another few hundred percent to finish off the year at 16,261% and 4,104% returns respectively.

With so many eyes on the crypto sector after the 2021’s breakout year, we’ll see how developing U.S. regulation and changing macro conditions affect cryptocurrencies in 2022.

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Charted: Tesla’s Unrivaled Profit Margins

This infographic compares Tesla’s impressive profit margins to various Western and Chinese competitors.

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Chart: Tesla’s Unrivaled Profit Margins

In January this year, Tesla made the surprising announcement that it would be cutting prices on its vehicles by as much as 20%.

While price cuts are not new in the automotive world, they are for Tesla. The company, which historically has been unable to keep up with demand, has seen its order backlog shrink from 476,000 units in July 2022, to 74,000 in December 2022.

This has been attributed to Tesla’s robust production growth, which saw 2022 production increase 41% over 2021 (from 930,422 to 1,313,851 units).

With the days of “endless” demand seemingly over, Tesla is going on the offensive by reducing its prices—a move that puts pressure on competitors, but has also angered existing owners.

Cranking up the Heat

Tesla’s price cuts are an attempt to protect its market share, but they’re not exactly the desperation move some media outlets have claimed them to be.

Recent data compiled by Reuters shows that Tesla’s margins are significantly higher than those of its rivals, both in terms of gross and net profit. Our graphic only illustrates the net figures, but gross profits are also included in the table below.

CompanyGross profit per carNet profit per car
🇺🇸 Tesla$15,653$9,574
🇺🇸 GM$3,818$2,150
🇨🇳 BYD$5,456$1,550
🇯🇵 Toyota$3,925$1,197
🇩🇪 VW$6,034$973
🇰🇷 Hyundai$5,362$927
🇺🇸 Ford$3,115-$762
🇨🇳 Xpeng$4,565-$11,735
🇨🇳 Nio$8,036-$19,141

Data from Q3 2022

Price cutting has its drawbacks, but one could argue that the benefits for Tesla are worth it based on this data—especially in a critical market like China.

Tesla has taken the nuclear option to bully the weaker, thin margin players off the table.
– Bill Russo, Automobility

In the case of Chinese EV startups Xpeng and Nio, net profits are non-existent, meaning it’s unlikely they’ll be able to match Tesla’s reductions in price. Both firms have reported year-on-year sales declines in January.

As for Tesla, Chinese media outlets have claimed that the firm received 30,000 orders within three days of its price cut announcement. Note that this hasn’t been officially confirmed by anyone within the company.

Tit for Tat

Ford made headlines recently for announcing its own price cuts on the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV. The model is a direct competitor to Tesla’s best-selling Model Y.

Chevrolet and Hyundai have also adjusted some of their EV prices in recent months, as listed in the following table.

ModelOld PriceNew PriceDiscount
Tesla Model Y Long Range$65,990$53,49018.9%
Chevrolet Bolt EUV 2023$33,500$27,20018.8%
Tesla Model Y Performance$69,990$56,99018.6%
Chevrolet Bolt 2023$31,600$26,50016.1%
Tesla Model 3 Performance$62,990$53,99014.3%
Hyundai Kona Electric 2022$37,390$34,0009.1%
Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Extended Range$69,900$64,0008.4%
Tesla Model 3 Long Range$46,990$43,9906.4%
Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD$57,675$53,9956.4%
Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD Standard Range$46,900$46,0001.9%

Source: Observer (Feb 2023)

Volkswagen is a noteworthy player missing from this table. The company has been gaining ground on Tesla, especially in the European market.

We have a clear pricing strategy and are focusing on reliability. We trust in the strength of our products and brands.
– Oliver Blume, CEO, VW Group

This decision could hamper Volkswagen’s goal of becoming a dominant player in EVs, especially if more automakers join Tesla in cutting prices. For now, Tesla still holds a strong grip on the US market.

tesla US market share

Thanks, Elon

Recent Tesla buyers became outraged when the company announced it would be slashing prices on its cars. In China, buyers even staged protests at Tesla stores and delivery centers.

Recent buyers not only missed out on a better price, but their cars have effectively depreciated by the amount of the cut. This is a bitter turn of events, given Musk’s 2019 claims that a Tesla would be an appreciating asset.

I think the most profound thing is that if you buy a Tesla today, I believe you are buying an appreciating asset – not a depreciating asset.
– Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla

These comments were made in reference to Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) capabilities, which Elon claimed would enable owners to turn their cars into robotaxis.

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