Tech Transformers

One of the biggest cryptocurrencies topped its rivals last quarter — and you’ll be surprised which one

Key Points
  • Bitcoin was the top performing cryptocurrency out of the top five in the third quarter
  • Investors shifted from altcoins like ethereum back to bitcoin
  • Bitcoin had an eventful quarter including a "fork" and increasingly stringent regulation from China
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Bitcoin was the top performing cryptocurrency in the last three months, despite the mega-rally earlier this year in so-called alternative coins, or altcoins.

Out of the top five cryptcurrencies by market capitalization, bitcoin reigned supreme in the third quarter. The digital currency was up 74 percent. Bitcoin cash, the digital currency created after bitcoin split, was not included as it was not trading for the entire quarter.

In contrast other altcoins were not as successful. Here's their third quarter performance in order of market capitalization, according to data:

  • Ethereum went from $282.32 to $302.04, rising just over 8 percent
  • Ripple fell from $0.26 to $0.19, declining 26.9 percent
  • Litecoin rose from $40.4 to $55.1, rallying 36.5 percent.

The third quarter marked a sharp contrast to the June quarter as people shifted away from altcoins back into bitcoin. For example, the second quarter saw ethereum rise over 500 percent and hit an all-time high.

Bitcoin has had an eventful quarter. Chinese regulators have cracked down on the cryptocurrency in contrast to Japan, which has been introducing supporting regulation. At the same time, bitcoin underwent a "fork" that split it in two, introducing another digital currency called bitcoin cash.

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Around the fork period, in particular, there was uncertainty from investors that now seems to have been removed, although some analysts have warned of further volatility ahead.

But it seems the huge rallies seen in altcoins in the second quarter, was enough to prompt people to get into bitcoin in the September quarter.

"There was risk in the altcoins, people thought they were overvalued and cycled back into bitcoin as a more sensible store of value," Charlie Hayter, CEO of industry analysis website CryptoCompare, told CNBC by phone Friday.

Still, some of the smaller altcoins saw impressive rallies last quarter. For example, Dash, which has a total value of $2.3 billion compared to bitcoin's $73.1 billion, was up 82 percent, according to data. Many of these altcoins have had large year-to-date rallies, coming off a low base, as an increasing number of investors get interested in cryptocurrencies.

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