This week, payments giant PayPal opened the floodgates by letting all U.S. users access the company’s new cryptocurrency services early.

It’s a major development for the cryptoeconomy, to be sure, but the headline also caused a minor ruckus across the cryptoeconomy. Why?

That’s because more than a few folks started arguing that PayPal should have eschewed support for lesser coins like bitcoin cash (BCH) and litecoin (LTC) in favor of focusing all their crypto services around the ecosystem’s undeniable heavyweights, bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum’s ether (ETH).

It’s interesting and worthwhile dialogue, and I want to be clear here personally: I’m laissez-faire when it comes to crypto, I’m all for the future being multi-chain and underpinned by interoperability.

That said, I also see no point in denying the obvious in the here and now: Bitcoin and Ethereum continue to be lightyears ahead of basically all crypto projects across multiple metrics, and they’ll undoubtedly be central activity hubs for years to come. Moreover, the 2020 cryptoeconomy has been defined by Ethereum-based projects from top to bottom all along the way.

This reality has led to complaints in some circles that fundamentals haven’t caught up with the crypto markets lately. So what if we looked at the current top 15 coins per market capitalization and tried to reorder it, particularly by weighting more toward Ethereum projects?

That’s exactly what I’ll be doing in this post, then: postulating a more accurate top 15 crypto assets (per market cap) as we head into 2021.

How the Top 15 Looks Now

According to crypto data analytics site Messari, the top 15 cryptocurrencies per market cap currently look like so:

  1. Bitcoin (BTC) – $16,140 – $299 billion market cap
  2. Ethereum (ETH) – $469 – $52.8 billion market cap
  3. Tether (USDT) – $1 – $16.7 billion market cap 
  4. Ripple (XRP) – $0.272 – $9.2 billion market cap
  5. Chainlink (LINK) – $12.69 – $4.9 billion market cap
  6. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) – $259 – $4.8 billion market cap
  7. Litecoin (LTC)  – $63.9 – $4.2 billion market cap
  8. Binance Coin (BNB) – $27.77 – $4 billion market cap
  9. Polkadot (DOT) – $4.49 – $3.95 billion market cap
  10. Cardano (ADA) – $0.105 – $3.36 billion market cap
  11. Bitcoin SV (BSV) – $160 – $2.9 billion market cap
  12. USD Coin (USDC) – $0.99 – $2.8 billion market cap
  13. EOS (EOS) – $2.56 – $2.4 billion market cap
  14. Monero (XMR) – $112.78 – $2 billion market cap
  15. Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) – $16,072 – $1.9 billion market cap

So that’s how the top 15 looks now. But what if we went over it with a comb and starting kicking out “ghost chains” in favor of hotter projects? Let’s dive in!

Re-examining Crypto’s Top 15

Let’s start by just postulating that bitcoin, ether, and USDT will remain the top coins in 2021. While I certainly think ETH flipping the BTC market cap is in play on the horizon, let’s just assume for the foreseeable future that BTC, ETH, and USDT lock down the top 3 in that order.

What next, then?

Let’s try axing “ghost chains,” i.e. blockchains with very low activity lately, from the top 15 first. These projects include: Ripple (XRP), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Cardano (ADA), Bitcoin SV (BSV), and EOS (EOS).

Here, I don’t mean to suggest these projects are totally dead or will never amount to anything. The point I’m making is that it’s increasingly looking like these projects will cede ground to projects with more activity in the months ahead, so we’re thinking through what that could look like.

A New Top 15

If we slot the aforementioned “ghost chains” out of the equation and bump up the next projects on the slate, the crypteconomy’s top 15 projects would look like so:

  1. Bitcoin (BTC)
  2. Ethereum (ETH)
  3. Tether (USDT) 
  4. Chainlink (LINK)
  5. Binance Coin (BNB) 
  6. Polkadot (DOT)
  7. USD Coin (USDC)
  8. Monero (XMR)
  9. Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC)
  10. Dai (DAI) 
  11. Filecoin (FIL)
  12. Uniswap (UNI)
  13. Aave (AAVE) 
  14. Zcash (ZEC)
  15. Maker (MKR)

I think this re-envisioned top 15 looks pretty good and believable. Obviously, this hypothetical scenario would involve ghost chains declining further and finally giving way to hotter projects.

It’s impossible to know the future, and things can change considerably from here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the top of the cryptoeconomy actually looks like this in one year’s time.

Points of Note

Let’s dive a little further into this re-imagined top 15 …

  1. Bitcoin – This year,  a corner has been turned when it comes to mainstream interest in BTC. High-profile investors and large mainstream firms like PayPal are delving in like never before, a dynamic that means the OG crypto is in good position to keep being embraced as digital gold.
  2. Ethereum – Ethereum and its blooming decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem stole the cryptoeconomy’s show in 2020. At the heart of all that teeming activity was Ethereum’s native currency, ETH. Call it digital oil, the internet of value’s money, or whatever you’d like: it’s going to be a top coin for years to come in any case.
  3. Tether – USDT is far from the perfect stablecoin, but that hasn’t stopped swathes of crypto users from embracing the token as their stablecoin of choice. Barring a major peg incident, I don’t see this status changing any time soon.
  4. Chainlink – To think about Chainlink’s LINK token climbing into being the fourth-largest crypto is amazing. It started out years ago as a project few believed in at the time. Now, Chainlink’s decentralized oracles are helping to power an astonishing array of DeFi projects, and folks are coming around to that reality.
  5. Binance Coin – BNB is Binance’s exchange token, and we all know that Binance is an absolutely dominant force throughout the wider cryptocurrency space. Seeing it in the top 5 tokens would make sense to me (it’s currently the 8th largest per market cap according to Messari).
  6. Polkadot – Polkadot is arguably the greatest of the so-called “Ethereum Killers. While the project’s still young, it’s seeming best poised to start ramping up and challenging Ethereum’s mantle. I like DOT at #6. 
  7. USD Coin – USDC, a stablecoin collaboration between Centre and Coinbase, has taken off in popuarlity in DeFi this year. There may come a day where a project like USDC dethrones Tether as the arena’s go-to stablecoin. In the meantime, USDC at #7 sounds just about right to me.
  8. Monero – XMR is the reigning privacy coin, so unsurprisingly behind BTC it remains the currency of choice on the dark web. That’s going to be the case for a while as things stand, so I’ve got no qualms analytically with Monero being here.
  9. Wrapped Bitcoin – WBTC is the most popular tokenized bitcoin implementation on Ethereum to date, and I see it’s adoption only vaulting up from here as more people look to put their BTC to use in DeFi.
  10. Dai – DAI is the native stablecoin of DeFi’s top lending protocol, MakerDAO, and it’s become extremely popular in DeFi accordingly. Look for adoption to continue.
  11. Filecoin – Decentralized storage network Filecoin is new, so its FIL token could rise or fall from here. For now I’ve got no problem with it at #11.
  12. Uniswap – Trading protocol Uniswap was the star of Ethereum. The only thing I’d say is that we could see it move more toward the top 5 tokens over time.
  13. Aave – Lending protocol burst onto the DeFi scene this year, and they haven’t slowed down with impressive developments since. Aave is the kind of token that’s well poised to replace ghost chains atop the cryptoeconomy.
  14. Zcash – ZEC is a privacy coin that’s much more friendly to the mainstream than Monero is. It’s more deserving of being in crypto’s top 15 than ghost chains, in my opinion.
  15. Maker – As we mentioned before, MakerDAO is DeFi’s reigning lending protocol. I think seeing one of DeFi’s oldest and most trusted apps in the top 15 would really signal that times have changed in the cryptoeconomy.


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