Crypto's biggest winners and losers for 2019

9 January, 2020

Early January is a good time to reflect on the events of the past year. For the cryptocurrency community, January is the time to evaluate what worked and what did not during the previous 12 months. This includes looking at cryptocurrency's biggest winners and losers. Some did very well in 2019, others not so much.

This post discusses the biggest winners and losers from 2019. Much of what is reviewed here is based solely on starting and ending price, but price was not the only metric considered. This writer also looked at overall performance, utility, public reception, and other factors.

So without any further ado, here are the biggest winners and losers over the last 12 months:

Bitcoin (BTC) - Biggest Winner

It was probably a foregone conclusion that Bitcoin would be named 2019's biggest winner. The world's first viable cryptocurrency also continues to be the most dominant. Bitcoin is so dominant that all others are judged by it. And why not? Satoshi Nakamoto set the standard when he released Bitcoin a decade ago.

In terms of price, Bitcoin started the year at about $3,400. It almost reached $13,000 at a summer peak before falling through the end of the year. It closed the year at just under $7.200. That means it gained about 110% in 2019. Bitcoin closed the year with a market cap north of $130 billion and a volume of 21 million.

Price was certainly a strength for Bitcoin in 2019. More importantly was Bitcoin's resilience. Plenty of naysayers did not think Bitcoin would make it out of 2018's crypto winter very well. Those same naysayers were predicting a total collapse when it reached $6,500 late in December. No such crash occurred. At the time this post was written, BTC was back up around the $7,500 mark.

BitTorrent (BTT) - Biggest Loser

The biggest loser of last year was BitTorrent (BTT), the token developed in a partnership between the BitTorrent Foundation and Tron to power the BitTorrent filesharing network. Its goals are pretty lofty:

  • Promote blockchain in hopes of helping it become a mainstream technology;
  • Correct the shortcomings of the BitTorrent protocol;
  • Support the BitTorrent network by allowing users to purchase faster download times; and
  • Create a bridge between content developers and consumers.

BitTorrent finished the year down 99%. Its biggest price drop, 97%, occurred on May 1. Despite being a successful IEO project, BTT has not really taken off. The very nature of torrents and filesharing could explain why. Those who share files via torrent networks are the least likely to be willing to pay for software, media files, etc. How likely are they to buy tokens to facilitate faster downloads?

Bitcoin Gold (BTG) - Loser

Bitcoin Gold is a hard fork of Bitcoin with the stated goal of preventing application-specific integrated circuits from mining the blockchain. How is this accomplished? By using a different proof-of-work algorithm. Officially launched in October 2017, Bitcoin Gold has long struggled to find its footing.

It started the year at $13.00 only to reach its peak at $31 on June 25. Since then, BTG has fallen significantly. It finished the year at $5.30 for a total loss of about 59%.

Luna Coin (LUNA) - Winner

Luna Coin might be the biggest winner you have never heard of. It launched in January 2017 with a total supply of 1.7 billion coins. It makes the list because it posted the single largest gain among all cryptocurrencies for 2019. On August 19, its price jumped more than 48,000%. It finished the year up 1,000% at a price of $0.01.

The thing about Luna Coin is that it is only traded on two markets. Most people have never heard of it, nor are they likely to if nothing changes in the near future. If you are looking for a long-shot coin that has the potential of rewarding you handsomely, LUNA might be worth looking into. Just don't spend a lot on it.

Binance Coin (BNB) - Winner

You might be familiar with Binance as a cryptocurrency exchange. Did you know that their token, Binance Coin, can be purchased in exchange for reduced transaction fees? Purchasing BNB is not going to be attractive to casual traders who don't do much buying and selling. But for high profile and institutional traders, the tokens represent quite a deal.

BNB's biggest move in 2019 actually occurred throughout the first six months, boasting a 548% increase from January through mid-June. Like just about every other cryptocurrency, it began falling after that. Still, it finished the year up 122% at $13.73.

Binance Coin is considered a winner because of its price and strength. Despite being a coin with extremely limited utility, BNB ended the year with a $2 billion market cap and a volume of 166 million. That is pretty significant for a token that has no utility outside of its own platform.

Ether (ETH) - Loser

Despite being the number two cryptocurrency by most assessments, Ether had a pretty rough year. It gained 139% through the first six months only to follow everyone else with losses. Its worst drop of the year occurred in July when the price fell by 36%.

In terms of raw numbers, ETH started 2019 at $136. It closed at $129. That doesn't seem too bad, so why is Ether on the list? Simply because it cannot seem to find any legs. ETH is the fundamental token necessary for operating the Ethereum network. With so many other projects being built on Ethereum, one would expect ETH to be worth more. Yet it is not.

Bear in mind some of the strengths Ethereum brings to the table. Where it takes Bitcoin some 10 minutes to complete a block, Ethereum's network completes it in 15 to 20 seconds. Another big strength is that Ethereum mining produces new coins at a rate that is more consistent than many other cryptocurrencies. Still, ETH remains lower than it probably should be.

Ripple (XRP) - Loser

XRP was among the most disappointing of all the losers in 2019. It closed out the year at just $0.19 after starting the year at $0.36. That represents a net loss of 47% over the year. The interesting thing about it is that XRP's transactions set a record in early December at $1 billion.

There have been some unconfirmed rumors that Ripple - the organization behind XRP - has intentionally gutted the token. What their motivation might be is unclear. Nonetheless, the speculation abounds.

If you are unfamiliar with XRP, it is a token with the primary task of powering Ripple's real-time gross settlement system and currency exchange. Ripple makes its money via large-scale financial transaction settlements. They provide global settlements of nearly any size with a promise of no chargebacks.

Litecoin (LTC) - Winner

Litecoin opened the year at about $32 while closing at $41, making for a modest gain for 2019. It peaked at about $135 the week of June 20. If you are detecting a theme here, pat yourself on the back for being observant. The entire crypto world peaked in mid-June before beginning its downward slide. As for Litecoin, it did better than most.

What makes Litecoin such a winner is that it continues to persist even though it doesn't get a whole lot of attention. Litecoin was officially launched in October 2011 as a fork of the Bitcoin core. Still, it has some fundamental differences including a proof-of-work algorithm that allows its network to complete blocks in 25% of the time Bitcoin requires.

Monero (MON) - Loser

Opening the year around $47, 2019 was supposed to be the year that Monero established itself as the most secure and reliable token in the crypto sphere. That did not happen. It closed the year at around $45 for a slight loss. The financial loss was nothing compared to the continued erosion of Monero's reputation.

There is little doubt that Monero's technology is solid. But that strength is also its Achilles' heel. Because Monero offers the closest possible thing to genuine anonymity, it is a haven for people who use cryptocurrency to shield unethical and illegal business. As such, traders tend to stay away from MON. That's too bad because it really is a very good platform.

In Summary

With literally thousands of cryptocurrencies to choose from, this list of 2019's biggest winners and losers could have been much longer. It goes without saying that there is plenty to pay attention to if you are an avid fan of cryptocurrencies. There is always something going on that is worth following.

If you are wondering why Libra did not make the list one way or the other, the reason is pretty straightforward: Libra still has yet to launch. Until it does, it is just a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg's eye. Perhaps there will be more to write about it in January 2021.

The big take-away here is that Bitcoin still rules the roost. Whether you're a casual trader looking to use BTC to shop online or play your favorite slot games, or you are a professional trader looking to make your living on cryptocurrency, BTC is the way to go. It will continue being the leader until a better token emerges.