Crypto all-time high data: What do the figures tell us?

Analysing all-time high figures presents some surprises, but are there any clear trends?

Red and green candlestick chart, blue theme, showing market volatility                                 
Can ATH data help us to understand crypto better? – Photo: Shutterstock
                                

Contents

The year of crypto, as 2021 was called, produced a litany of record-breaking figures for bitcoin (BTC) and the wider altcoin market. Trading figures surpassed expectations, decentralised finance (DeFi) came to the fore, Tether became ground-zero for the regulation debate and major scams like Squid Game Token garnered mainstream coverage.

Among the headlines and controversies, many of the most established cryptocurrencies soared to set all-time highs (ATHs) during the two unprecedented bull runs that girded the mid-section of the year. As most readers will know, what followed was a prolonged downturn that continued well into 2022, as billions were wiped from the market.

However, as of 3 March, bitcoin is up 20% against the week, lifting the altcoin market up with it. Whether the rebound continues remains to be seen. Regardless, bitcoin remains well below the ATH witnessed in November 2021, even if the bulls and bears continue to play tug-of-war above and below the trendline.

What is certain is that every one of the top-100 cryptocurrencies has a way to travel before they manage to surpass their respective crypto all-time high targets, if indeed they manage to reach them at all.

But what can the latest crypto all-time high data and the position of large- and mid-cap coins in relation to their ATHs say about the cryptocurrency market in general? Can the numbers help us get a clearer picture of how certain coins react to an uncertain market? To find out, we collated cryptocurrency all-time high data (using blockchaincenter.net) from the 100 largest tokens and made some comparisons. Here is what we found. (Note that stablecoins have been excluded from the following analysis).

By the numbers

The first port of call in this analysis of cryptocurrencies’ all-time highs is to outline the raw data.

On average, the 25 largest cryptocurrencies by market cap (what we’ll refer to as the top segment) in the top 100 fell by 55.47% as of 3 March 2022. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) – the 2017 hard fork of Bitcoin (BTC) fell the most – suffering a 91.5% drop in price since ATH. Stella (XLM), Uniswap (UNI), Tron (TRX) and Dogecoin (DOGE) also fell by over 75%.

Of these cryptocurrencies, 56% fell between, or above, 50% to 75% of the market caps, while 36% fell between 25% to 50%. Only Terra (LUNA) and Unus Sed Leo (LEO) sustained less than 25% of losses.

Worth noting is the similarity in the ATH chasm between the three largest cryptocurrencies, being BTC, ether (ETH) and BNB Chain (BNB), implying that they weave among the market in a similar fashion. In comparison, the two leading meme coins – Dogecoin (DOGE) and Shiba Inu (SHIB) – are trading far behind their respective ATH targets.

Graph of percentage fall from ATH of the top-25 cryptocurrencies
BTC, ETH and BNB often follow the same market movements – Source: Currency.com

Regarding the 25 smallest tokens in the top 100 (which we’ll call the lower segment), 40% dropped between, or above, 50% to 75% of the market caps. Furthermore, as shown below, Mina Protocol (MINA), Compound Finance (COMP), Qtum (QTUM) and Marinade Staked SOL (MSOL) only just crept above the 50% line.

Addtionally, 45% fell between 25% and 50% of market cap. Convex Finance (CVX), BitDAO (BIT), Oasis Network (ROSE), Secret (SCRT) and yearn.finance (YFI) suffered the fewest losses, all managing to stay below the 25% line.

Graph of percentage fall from ATH of the bottom-25 cryptocurrencies
Convex Finance (CVX) remains closest to its ATH – Source: Currency.com

Can we elicit any trends from the all-time high data outlined above? First off, the largest fallers – those seeing more than a 75% price drop since all-time high (ATH) – are diverse, ranging from decentralised exchange (DEX) token and blockchain tokens to meme coins and metaverse tokens.

Blockchain tokens, centralised exchange (CEX) tokens and decentralised finance (DeFi) tokens feature among the lowest fallers in price since all-time high (ATH). The middle band comprises a mix of all token types. This would suggest that no particular “genre” of token is over or underrepresented in any particular bandwidth.

A clearer trend appears when comparing tokens not by class, but by market cap. On average, the lower segment fell by 41.73%; nearly 14 percentage points less than the top segment. This could come as a surprise to some observers. Does it indicate a higher degree of volatility in the market for the top segment compared to the bottom segment?

Setting the record straight

The experts interviewed by Currency.com roundly disagreed with this hypothesis. Ed Hindi is the chief investment officer at leading digital asset manager TYR Capital. Citing hype as a major contributing factor, Hindi explained: “The top 50 to 100 (crypto) projects are extremely dynamic. You get a lot of new projects jumping into the top 100.” Conversely, many projects currently listed in the lower segment might not stay there for long.

There is another, more tangible, factor worth considering, which has to do with the massive influx of institutional investors entering the cryptocurrency space over the past two to three years. Hindi said: “The inflow of venture capital (VC) funds is just non-stop coming in. You tend to see the effect of that on average two years after the money hits a project, when it either dies and you never hear about it, or it suddenly gets to the exchanges and starts capping up.”

Hindi’s suggestion of a two-year lag between the inflow of VC funds into nascent crypto projects and their subsequent market presence is backed up by data. To date, the average age of cryptocurrencies in the top segment is approximately 4.2 years. In comparison, the average age in the bottom segment is closer to 2.5 years. This presents a fairly direct correlation between the age of cryptocurrencies in the bottom segment and the average maturation window of a VC-based project.

The ins and outs

But even though VC-backed cryptocurrencies can enjoy a brief spell in the limelight, rising from zero to a $1bn capitalisation in a couple of years, this window is more often than not very short lived, with “two projects out of 20” actually maintaining their positions in the top 100, according to Hindi’s estimations.

Keegan Francis, global cryptocurrency editor at independent comparison platform Finder, agreed. Francis told Currency.com: “The top-25 coins actually don’t change that often. If you did this exact survey six months from now, you’re going to have 90% of those coins in the top 25 remaining the same. But in six months, it’s very possible that none of the bottom-25 coins will show up in the same list.”

This short-term rise and fall of coins in the bottom segment is what skewers the ATH data, as they enter the top 100 and quickly fall back again.

Since market lag is prevalent in the top segment as well as the bottom segment, any cryptocurrency all-time high snapshot is destined to change on a week-to-week, possibly day-to-day, basis. Hindi explained that, given bitcoin’s recent momentum, the top coins will likely experience similarly bullish activity as bitcoin’s recovery encourages positive market sentiment, albeit in a delayed fashion. In comparison, “the bottom 50 to 100 tend to be less affected” by bitcoin’s movements.

Latest Crypto Fear & Greed Index

In summary

All in all, price comparisons against crypto all-time high data might not be the best indicator for predicting volatility or market trends, given the constantly fluctuating figures. As a rule, Francis said: “The higher cap coins are not so volatile… because they’re more normally distributed in terms of who owns the tokens,” Francis explained. 

He added: “The tokens are held by a much larger group of people, whereas a lot of the time, small-cap coins are held by the founders or the tech team or the private investors, who can push the price around.” Francis is referring to the “Gini coefficient”, a metric used to measure wealth inequality among a nation or social group.

A similar system to the Gini coefficient can be ascertained in the crypto space through an analysis of the largest wallet addresses of a particular cryptocurrency. That discussion is for another day, so be sure to stay tuned to Currency.com for the latest news, analysis and feature articles, including any price change since all-time high (ATH) for the top cryptos.

FAQs

ATH stands for all-time high, meaning the highest price a cryptocurrency has reached in its lifetime.

The causes are vast. Market volatility can be caused by fluctuations in the traditional stock market, large-scale investor token buying or dumping, geopolitical situations, regulatory overhauls, good or bad press, token burning schedules, and many other scenarios.

With a market capitalisation in the hundreds of billions, bitcoin (BTC) is by far the most valuable cryptocurrency, followed by ether (ETH). Other major cryptocurrencies include BNB Chain (BNB), Ripple (XRP) and the tether (USDT) stablecoin.

Further reading

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