2021 was a whirlwind year for the cryptocurrency market - a massive shift from 2020, where only a handful of cryptocurrencies grabbed headlines. Over the past year, even newly launched coins were able to attract some press and deliver impressive gains for investors.
Moving into the new year, it's worth noting those notable cryptocurrencies that delivered the highest gains - and how they did it.
2021 performance: 67.2%
Bitcoin didn't deliver the biggest gains in the market. But its place as the industry's top safe-haven remains undisputed.
Due to its position, Bitcoin has always heralded moves in the market. It starts bull runs and is usually dragging other assets down when bearish movements begin.
Last year was more of the same. At the start, Bitcoin raced to new highs. Things got even better when Tesla invested $1.5 billion in the coin and drove it above $50,000.
By mid-April, Bitcoin hit its first high of $64,000. But, controversies about its environmental effect - and Tesla's decision to stop accepting it for payment - affected the coin and set off a bear market that lasted months.
Bitcoin eventually broke the $64,000 mark in October, setting a new high at $69,000 - primarily because a Bitcoin futures-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF) was approved and launched.
We're curious to see whether Bitcoin will drive some nice gains in 2022. At the close of 2021, the price dropped to $47,192. Investors were getting scared and taking profits.
2021 performance: 453.7%
Ether saw massive growth over the past few years and successfully shed its image as "Bitcoin's baby brother." It has set itself up as a stable asset, thanks in no small part to the increased adoption of the Ethereum blockchain.
Ethereum became a massive hit in 2020 thanks to the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi). Protocols are being built on the blockchain, many using Ether for transactions and fee settlements. As a result, Ether's price ballooned in 2021.
While Ether eventually crashed from its previous high of $4,374 in April 2021 (due to Bitcoin's issues), it set an all-time high of $4,868 in November. Since then, it has dipped along with Bitcoin.
The emerging storyline for Ether will depend on the Ethereum blockchain's ability to switch to Ethereum 2.0, transitioning from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS). Success with this transition could make Ethereum even more suitable for protocols focusing on DeFi, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and more.
2021 performance: 6,501.7%
Like Ether, Solana grew massively in 2021 due to its blockchain platform. The Solana blockchain and Etheruem have an interesting link.
As early as 2020, it was evident that the Ethereum blockchain isn't scalable. Gas fees on the blockchain skyrocketed, and transactions were delayed time and again. The Ethereum Foundation promised to fix these issues with Ethereum 2.0, but the upgrade isn't expected until mid-2022 at the earliest. So many developers sought out alternatives.
These alternatives - known as "Etheruem Killers" - are blockchains that already operate on PoS. Solana emerged as the preferred option for many protocols. By building on Solana, developers started using SOL for transactions and fees. Just like that, SOL took off.
Several projects have already been built on Solana - including FTX, the third-largest crypto exchange in the world, according to Coinmarketcap.
Now, SOL will be looking to break its all-time high of $260.33. With a current price of $125.44, that's a long way to go.
2021 performance: 4,185.7%
Dogecoin's impressive 2021 performance came from its massive community. The asset has been around and shown bursts of brilliance from time to time. In 2021, it blew investors away.
Harnessing love from hundreds of thousands on the internet - including notables Elon Musk and Snoop Dogg - Dogecoin exploded in 2021 - hitting an all-time high of $0.74 on May 8 - the same day Musk made his Saturday Night Live (SNL) appearance.
But, DOGE wasn't immune to the market crash. Its price has dropped to $0.005. Still, people who invested early in 2021 are counting their gains.